Just days ahead of scheduled meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Donald Trump said that US can act alone to deal with North Korea’s nuclear program if Beijing does not cooperate to put pressure
on pariah nation.
Trump and Xi are meeting on April 6-7 at Republican’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. North Korean threat and South China Sea dispute are expected to be the focus of the meet, where the two leaders are supposed to discuss a number of other issues.
Trump has already made it clear in an interview published in Financial Times on Sunday that he would talk about North Korea with Xi. “And China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone,” Trump said. Trump also said while he believes in alliances and partnerships, they “have not always worked out very well” for the US.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear weapons tests and dozens of ballistic missiles launches. Pyongyang is thought to possess as many as 20 nuclear warheads that can reach South Korea and Japan. As recently as March 6, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles into waters off Japan. It was the latest provocation by an isolated nation which is pursuing an ambitious program to develop missile that can reach to US mainland.
If Trump needs China to rein in North Korea, he needs take pragmatic approach. Trump’s anti-China rhetoric during his campaign has already miffed China. Trump accused China of unfair trade practices and threatened to raise import taxes on Chinese goods and declare Beijing a currency manipulator. US president said trade was the incentive for China to work with the US. Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, talked tough on China. She said US was pressing Beijing to take a firmer stand regarding North Korea’s nuclear program.
Despite stringent sanctions and pressuring China and setting conditions for talks, North Korea continues to accelerate its nuclear and ballistic missiles program. Beijing is Pyongyang’s most important ally and biggest trading partner. But the escalation of North weapons program has dented ties with China. Under mounting pressure, China banned coal imports from North in the wake of February missile test.
Although China has huge leverage since it supplies most of North Korea’s food and energy, Beijing has its limitations and interests. China fears a collapse of Kim regime might open refugee floodgate. And in the event of South Korea absorbing its neighbor would bring a US ally at its doorstep.
The deployment of missile defense system has also irked China. It argues that missile defense system upsets the strategic equilibrium in the region. Trump has not made it clear how to deal with North Korea in case China refuses to cooperate after a certain extent. There is doubt China will cooperate much. Trump too has not made his strategy clear. He refused to divulge anything about his next move. The world can only wait and watch.