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Trump emphasizes China's role in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue

Kim Ga Young  |  2017-04-05 17:00
US President Donald Trump has emphasized China's role in resolving North Korea-related issues prior to the first US-China summit scheduled for April 6-7.

President Trump stated that if China continues to cooperate with North Korea, the US will act alone, telling the Financial Times that if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. 

Many analysts predict that the US may be preparing to act without the support of China, as China has been reluctant to pressure North Korea. Last week, the US Treasury Department blacklisted a North Korean trading firm, Paeksol Trading Corp, and 11 individuals for their involvement in supporting the North's nuclear and missile programs. 

Many see the latest U.S. sanctions on North Korea as a harbinger of secondary sanctions targeting Chinese firms doing business with the North.

Shin Gak Su, South Korea's former vice Minister of Foreign Affairs told Daily NK, "Trump's remarks seem to hint at the possibility of secondary boycotts of Chinese trading companies and military options for North Korea. The Trump administration is still reviewing its North Korea policy, but the overall context suggests that it is placing a high priority on the North Korea nuclear issue."

Some argue that Trump's remarks were designed to set the stage for talks between the US and China, as they were made four days ahead of the summit.

"Whether Trump's remarks are a reflection of serious concern for the North Korea issue or just a strategic move to pressure China before the summit will need to be further examined. Time will tell how seriously the US is considering secondary boycotts or military action," Shin added.

There is prevailing skepticism that the summit will only end up reaffirming the differing positions of the two countries on North Korea.

China has stated that the US is also responsible for the North Korea nuclear issue as US-North relations greatly influence the matter. High-ranking officials within the Xi government have been insisting on a double-track process (simultaneous denuclearization and a peace treaty with North Korea) and double-track suspension (simultaneous suspension of North Korea's nuclear and missiles provocations and the annual joint military drills held by the US and South Korea).

A diplomatic source who declined to be identified for security reasons noted, "There are an increasing number of people in Washington who believe that trying to persuade China to step up the pressure on North Korea is a waste of time. The summit may therefore only serve to convey the USs stance rather than to try and change China's attitude.

Lee Tae Hwan, head of the Center for China Studies at the Sejong Institute said, "[No matter how firm a position the US takes], China will not abruptly change its attitude. There are a lot of challenges for China if it takes measures to seriously damage North Koreas economy, like the suspension of crude oil supply, considering the domestic shock it will bring to China."

"As of now, the biggest gesture of cooperation that China can offer is to remain silent when the US takes action against North Korea on its own. Differences between the US and China cannot be resolved in one summit. Therefore, it is important for the two countries to regularly meet and exchange opinions," Lee said.

The US - China summit will be held at Trumps Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, on April 6 and 7 (local time). During the summit, the two countries will focus on discussing trade imbalances as well as the North Korea nuclear issue.

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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