China on Potential U.S. Sanctions: North Korea, U.S. Trade ‘Should Not Be Discussed Together’

Xi Jinping and Jim Jong-un
Jason Lee/Reuters / KNS/AFP/Getty

China had denied President Donald Trump’s accusation that it has not done enough to curb North Korea’s nuclear missile program, while Japan voiced support for Trump’s position and called upon China and Russia to do more.

China responded to Trump’s criticism on Sunday, claiming in a statement to the Reuters news agency that Beijing is not responsible for North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, the international community recognizes China’s contributions to resolving the crisis, and all parties should work together to find a solution.

“We think the North Korean nuclear issue and China-U.S. trade are issues that are in two completely different domains. They aren’t related. They should not be discussed together,” said China’s Vice Commerce Minister Qian Keming, responding to President Trump’s remark about foolish past American leaders allowing China to profit excessively from trade with the United States.

China condemned the latest missile launch from North Korea and asked the Kim regime to “stop taking actions that would escalate tensions.”

“The U.N. Security Council has clear regulations on North Korea’s launch activities that use ballistic missile technologies. China is opposed to North Korea’s launch activities in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and against the will of the international community,” argued the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Other members of the Trump administration came forward over the weekend to support his criticism of China, as did Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described China and Russia as Pyongyang’s “principal economic enablers” on Saturday and suggested they should do more to bring North Korea to heel.

“All nations should take a strong public stance against North Korea by maintaining and strengthening U.N. sanctions to ensure North Korea will face consequences for its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them,” said Tillerson.

“We believe China should do more,” said Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday, during a trip to Estonia.

“The President has been clear about that in his conversations with President Xi that while China has taken unprecedented steps to begin to isolate North Korea economically and to bring diplomatic pressure, we believe China has a unique relationship with the regime in North Korea and has a unique ability to influence decisions by that regime,” said Pence.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated on Monday that he spoke with President Trump by telephone, praising Trump’s commitment to “take all necessary measures” to protect Japan from North Korean missiles.

“We have made consistent efforts to resolve the North Korean problem in a peaceful manner, but North Korea has ignored that entirely and escalated the situation in a one-sided way. The international community, starting with China and Russia, must take this obvious fact seriously and increase pressure,” said Abe, agreeing with the Trump administration’s position about the need for Pyongyang’s patrons to step up and resolve the crisis.

For their part, the North Koreans did their best to prove Trump, Haley, and Pence’s point that words mean nothing to the brutal regime in Pyongyang, which pays very little attention to either demands from the international community or polite requests from Beijing.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un said his new weapons “basically put all of the United States within range” and demonstrate he could conduct a “surprise launch of the ICBM in any region and place, at any time.”

However, it might dampen Kim’s enthusiasm to know that U.S. officials say they were aware of the impending ICBM launch well before it happened, with high confidence that a launch was imminent about four hours in advance. This greatly reduces North Korea’s odds of making a “surprise” launch as the dictator claimed, although defense analysts remain disconcertingly surprised by how much North Korea’s ICBM program has improved in such a short time.

“The US needs to stop with its delusion of trying to harm us, by clearly understanding the strategic status of the DPRK which soared up as the world’s nuclear and missile power, and our military and peoples’ strong will to revenge our enemies to destruction,” a spokesman for the North Korean Foreign Ministry declared on Sunday.

“If the US continues to frantically cling on to the so-called ‘strong sanctions’ and military adventures against us, we will respond with firm action of justice that we had already made clear,” the spokesman added, offering a preview of how little influence the “international community” will have over Pyongyang once its nuclear umbrella has fully opened.

North Korea’s state-controlled KCNA news service described its ICBM launch as a “grave warning” to the “beast-like U.S. imperialists” that America “would not go scot-free if it dares to provoke” hostilities.

This electoral broadside described North Korea’s nuclear missile program as “a precious strategic asset that cannot be bartered for anything.”

“If the Yankees brandish the nuclear stick on this land again despite our repeated warnings, we will clearly teach them manners,” KCNA thundered.

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