US, China pledge to cooperate on ‘regional hotspots’
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw the successful test of a high-thrust engine, state-run Korean Central News Agency reported early Sunday, saying the event had “historic significance” that could lead to the “new birth” of the country’s indigenous rocket industry.
Beijing was Tillerson’s final stop on his first official trip to Asia, which also included visits to Japan and South Korea.
The trip followed a string of North Korean missile launches, which escalated tensions on the Korean Peninsula and prompted fears Pyongyang is preparing for another nuclear test.
North Korea’s only ally
China is Pyongyang’s only major global ally, with bilateral trade accounting for 70% of North Korea’s total trade, providing a political and economic lifeline to Kim’s increasingly isolated regime.
US President Donald Trump has repeatedly called on Beijing to use its leverage over its unpredictable neighbor.
He singled out China again Friday, tweeting, “North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!”
Despite earlier warning that all options — including military action — remained on the table in dealing with Pyongyang, Tillerson refrained from the harsh language that he had used in Tokyo and Seoul upon arriving in Beijing.
After meeting his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minster Wang Yi, on Saturday, the top US diplomat stressed “renewed determination” by Beijing and Washington to “work together to convince the North Korean government to choose a better path and a different future for its people,” without giving details.
Although neither side brought up the subject publicly, Tillerson was expected to raise the prospect of financial penalties on Chinese companies and banks that do business with North Korea.
“The Trump administration is banking that threats of US military action in South Korea and tougher sanctions on Chinese entities will intimidate Beijing into changing its policies,” said Ashley Townshend, a research fellow at the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney.
On the trip, Tillerson has signaled a new approach toward North Korea, saying that Washington’s policy of “strategic patience” over the past 20 years aimed at halting North Korea’s nuclear development was a failure.
Between the US and North Korea
Beijing, however, has been irked by calls that it isn’t doing enough to lessen tensions in the region.
Wang said China had made “important contributions” to supporting US engagement with Pyongyang but stressed it was, at its core, an issue between the United States and North Korea.
An un-bylined opinion piece Friday in the Global Times, a Chinese state-run tabloid, made a similar point.
“Washington and Seoul are trying to shift all the burden of solving the North Korean nuclear issue onto China and include China into their strategy toward Pyongyang,” it said.
“But that way, China and North Korea will become enemies, further complicating the conflict. The North Korean nuclear issue is caused by Washington-Pyongyang confrontation, to which China has no obligation to shoulder all the responsibilities.”
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