Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon has said there is no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the US president’s recent pledge to answer further aggression with “fire and fury”.

In an interview with The American Prospect posted online, Mr Bannon told the liberal publication that the US is losing the economic race against China.

He also talked about purging his rivals from the defence and state departments.

Mr Bannon was also asked about the white supremacist movement, whose march on Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend led to deadly violence.

He dismissed them as “losers”, “a fringe element” and “a collection of clowns”.

“There’s no military solution (to North Korea’s nuclear threats), forget it,” Mr Bannon said.

“Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.”

Mr Trump tweeted earlier on Wednesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “made a very wise and well-reasoned decision” by backing down after heightening fears of nuclear conflict in a series of combative threats, including against the US territory of Guam.

Mr Bannon also outlined his push for the US to adopt a tougher stance on China trade, without waiting to see whether Beijing will help restrain Kim, as Mr Trump has pressed China’s leader to do.

Mr Trump has also lamented US trade deficits with China.

“The economic war with China is everything,” Mr Bannon said.

Steve Bannon
Steve Bannon (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

“And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, 10 years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said both sides have benefited from trade.

Asked about Mr Bannon’s comments, Ms Hua said at a regular new briefing: “There is no winner in a trade war. We hope the relevant people can refrain from dealing with a problem in the 21st century with a zero-sum mentality from the 19th or the 20th century.”

Ms Hua appealed for dialogue to “preserve the sound and steady growth of China-US relations”.

Mr Bannon was a key general election campaign adviser and has been a forceful but contentious presence in a divided White House.

The former leader of conservative Breitbart News, Mr Bannon has drawn fire from some of Mr Trump’s closest advisers, including son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Steve Bannon, centre, earlier this year with Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, left
Steve Bannon, centre, earlier this year with Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, left (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The president is under renewed pressure to fire Mr Bannon, who has survived earlier rounds of having fallen out of favour with Mr Trump.

Earlier this week, the president passed up an opportunity to offer a public vote of confidence in Mr Bannon.

Mr Trump said he is a “good person” and not a racist, adding that “we’ll see what happens with Mr Bannon”.