China Needs to Pressure North Korea

Apr 20, 2017

The United States has made clear that it will not accept North Korea's threatening the U.S. and its allies with ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons.

Speaking from Kabul, Afghanistan, U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster noted that the U.S. is not alone in its view that North Korea's dangerous behavior, which includes a headlong rush of nuclear tests and missile launches, must stop.

“There's an international consensus now, including the Chinese and the Chinese leadership, that this is a situation that just can't continue,” he said.

China is North Korea's largest trading partner, accounting for 90 percent of Pyongyang's total trade. Coal is North Korea's most important export, with the vast majority of it going to China.

President Donald Trump has made clear that he expects China to use its influence with North Korea to restrain the regime's leader Kim Jong Un, and to work toward the goal of a denuclearized Korean peninsula. In February China announced it would halt imports of North Korean coal, in line with its UN obligations, thereby denying Kim a much needed source of foreign currency. China needs to follow through on this important announcement.

In a briefing to reporters, State Department Acting Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton said, “China has indicated appreciation of the urgency of the threat, of the need to have an international coalition mounted, and a need for China to do more in stepping up pressure on the North Korean regime and trying to make it clear to them that there is no tolerance for these illegal programs—-both the ballistic missile programs and the nuclear programs.”

Acting Assistant Secretary Thornton said the United States has “gotten a lot of positive signals from the Chinese,” but, she cautioned, it takes time to see if economic pressure will be effective.

“We're going to work with China and see if we can get them to do more, and if they decide they're not going to work with us or not cooperate with us, then we're going to have to...change tack and try something else,” Acting Assistant Secretary Thornton said.

President Trump conveyed the same message earlier this month: "I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will.”