Home GRASP GRASP/Korea AP Analysis: Will China be North Korea’s Trump card?

AP Analysis: Will China be North Korea’s Trump card?

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China’s announcement it has suspended North Korean coal imports may have been its first test of whether the Trump administration is ready to do something about a major, and mutual, security problem: North Korea’s nukes. While China is Pyongyang’s biggest enabler, it is also the…
TOKYO — China’s announcement it has suspended North Korean coal imports may have been its first test of whether the Trump administration is ready to do something about a major, and mutual, security problem: North Korea’s nukes. While China is Pyongyang’s biggest enabler, it is also the biggest outside agent of regime-challenging change — just not in the way Washington has wanted.
Judging from Trump’s limited comments so far, and the gaping chasm between Washington’s long-held focus on sanctions and punishment and Beijing’s equally deep commitment to diplomatic talks that don’t require the North to first give up its arsenal, a deal between the two won’t come easily.
But if Beijing is indeed sending a signal to Trump about Pyongyang, its opening bid was a big one. North Korea’s coal exports to China totaled $1.2 billion last year, according to Chinese customs. U. S. officials say that represents about one third of the North’s total export income.
For Kim Jong Un, that’s going to hurt.
In a bitter critique, the North’s official media on Thursday likened the decision by Beijing to an enemy state’s move “to bring down” their social system and, in a tone it normally reserves for Washington, Tokyo or Seoul, accused Beijing of “dancing to the tune of the U. S.” It was one of the most biting attacks the North’s media has ever made against China.
Trump, meanwhile, has often appeared to be more interested in bashing China than dealing with it. He has accused Beijing of not helping at all with the problem, and at the height of his bombast last year on the campaign trail, claimed China has “total control over North Korea.”
“China should solve that problem,” he said. “And if they don’t solve the problem, we should make trade very difficult for China.”
Trump has vowed to “deal with” North Korea and his administration is conducting a broad-ranging policy review, including how to make sanctions bite. Negotiations haven’t been ruled out, said a U.

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