During an interview with Fox Business, Mr Trump told the anecdote of how he and Xi Jinping dined together at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida at the start of a two-day summit designed to build bridges between the two nations.
“I was sitting at the table. We had finished dinner. We are now having dessert. And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you have ever seen. And President Xi was enjoying it,” Mr Trump said.
“And I was given the message from the generals that the ships are locked and loaded. What do you do? And we made a determination to do it. So the missiles were on the way.”
Momentarily confusing Iraq and Syria, he continued: “And I said: ‘Mr President, let me explain something to you …this is during dessert… we’ve just fired 59 missiles – all of which hit by the way, unbelievable, from, you know hundreds of miles away, all of which hit, it’s so incredible, it’s brilliant, it’s genius, our technology is better than anybody’s by a factor of five …”
“So what happens is, I said we’ve just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq, heading to Iraq [sic] … heading toward Syria and I want you to know that.
“I didn’t want him to finish his dessert and go home … and then they say: ‘You know the guy you just had dinner with just attacked [Syria].’”
Interviewer Maria Bartiromo asked how Mr Xi had taken the news, given that China, together with Russia, has repeatedly blocked UN resolutions targeting Syrian dictator Bashar-al-Assad, who Mr Trump branded “an animal”.
Mr Trump said of Mr Xi’s reaction: “He paused for 10 seconds and then he asked the interpreter to please say it again – I didn’t think that was a good sign.
“And he said to me, anybody that uses gases – you could almost say, or anything else – but anybody that was so brutal and uses gases to do that to young children and babies, it’s OK. He was OK with it. He was OK.”
The meeting between the two world leaders came following recent escalating tensions between the US and China over the South China Sea dispute as well as Syria.
China’s state-sponsored media reported the summit as a resounding success and kept news of the air strikes off the front pages.
Mr Trump claimed he had got on well with the Chinese President.
He said: “I really liked him. We had a great chemistry, I think … Maybe he didn’t like me but I think he liked me … we understand each other.”
The air strike against Syria was carried out following a suspected chemical weapons attack by Mr Assad against his own people which killed dozens of men, women and children.