Friday, August 4, 2017

Trump and China: Getting Beyond North Korea

Joe Renouard,

uncaptioned image from article

In recent weeks, the Trump administration has taken a more insistent line of “official disappointment” over alleged Chinese inaction [re North Korea]. On June 20, Trump was conciliatory but firm: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi and China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” Two weeks later, he upbraided Beijing for the rise in exports to North Korea: “Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 percent in the first quarter. So much for China working with us.” At the end of June, the administration permitted a $1.42 billion arms delivery to Taiwan, and the United States announced secondary sanctions against the Bank of Dandong, a shipping company, and two individuals for doing business with North Korea. Beijing protested both the sanctions and the weapons, though neither was unexpected or unprecedented.
Following North Korea’s July 28 test, the earlier disappointment grew into an administration-wide, full-court press of frustration aimed at both North Korea and China. “I am very disappointed in China,” Trump tweeted. “They do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!” Vice-President Mike Pence stated somewhat more diplomatically that China “should do more,” while Secretary Tillerson insisted that China and Russia “bear unique and special responsibility” as “the principal economic enablers” of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missile programs. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley paired her official statement—that “China must decide whether it is finally willing” to challenge the North Korean regime—with a less-refined tweet: “Done talking about NKorea. China is aware they must act.”
Given this shift in public diplomacy, the administration is all but sure to continue levying secondary sanctions on Chinese entities doing business with Pyongyang (the acting assistant secretary of state has said as much to a congressional committee), though it remains to be seen whether they will use punitive sanctions against Beijing, as doing so would reduce Trump’s ability to work with China on other issues. ...

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