In a subsequent tweet, he added: “I know President Xi of China very well. He is a great leader who very much has the respect of his people. He is also a good man in a ‘tough business.’ I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?”

The remarks marked a reversal from the promise Trump made to Xi in a phone conversation in mid-June. The president surprised his aides when he told Xi that he would not condemn the Chinese government over a crackdown in Hong Kong. He understood it was an internal issue in which the U.S. would not interfere, he said.

The president’s off-the-cuff commitment caused confusion within the administration. For one, aides were uncertain whether there was a time horizon on the president’s vow of silence, particularly when he went on to make a statement at least mildly supportive of the protesters.