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The success of U.S policy to constrain N.K. hinges on China’s support

The success of U.S policy to constrain N.K. hinges on China’s support

Posted March. 18, 2017 07:17,   

Updated March. 18, 2017 07:26


“The policy of strategic patience has ended,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Korea Friday, referring to the Obama administration’s policy toward North Korea. “The United Nations Security Council’s sanction on North Korea is not at its highest level,” he added, implying his intent to impose stronger sanctions on North Korea and increase U.S pressure. Furthermore, Tillerson blamed China’s increasing threat coming against the backdrop of the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, saying, “China should pressure North Korea to eliminate North Korea’s escalating threats.”

“U.S. policy toward North Korea of the last two decades has failed,” Tillerson said in Japan before coming to South Korea, hinting a possible overhaul of U.S. policy in confronting North Korea under the Trump administration. In regard to the failure of U.S. policy on North Korea, Tillerson said that the U.S. has “provided 1.35 billion U.S. dollars (1.5272 trillion won) to encourage North Korea to choose a different path.” The U.S also provided food and energy to North Korea from 1995, a year after the 1994 Geneva Agreed framework, to 1998, the year of last six-party talks, to persuade North Korea to abandon nuclear development. However, North Korea has further upgraded its nuclear capability. According to Tillerson, the Clinton administration’s engagement with North Korea, the Bush administration’s pressure on North Korea, and the Obama administration’s strategic patience to North Korea have all met with failure in dealing with the isolated regime.

More than anything else, the Trump administration must earn supports from China in order to ensure successful outcomes in dealing with Pyongyang. China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi has proposed that North Korea can suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for a halt in joint military drills by South Korea and the U.S. At the same time, Yi has proposed to continue negotiation on denuclearization of Korean peninsula and peace treaty together. Furthermore, China has requested for the resumption of talks among stakeholders while not allowing a collapse of the North Korean regime by tougher sanctions. Unless China changes its attitude, North Korea’s nuclear activities will continue. Suspicions have increased after the Chinese government allowed at least ten North Korean vessels, which had moored in China’s water for three weeks, to enter its port. The Chinese government previously announced its ban on coal imports from Pyongyang last month.

After meeting South Korean and Japanese officials to discuss policies toward North Korea, Tillerson is visiting China from Saturday to Sunday. Tillerson’s visit is a preparatory step ahead of a summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss the THAAD deployment in South Korea. The New York Times has reported that Tillerson will warn China that the U.S. is prepared to step up its missile defense system and pressure on China’s financial institutions if China fails to use its influence in North Korea to prevent North Korea’s nuclear and missile activities. The Obama administration was reluctant to impose a secondary boycott against China in order to sanction Chinese companies and financial institutions working with North Korea. However, the Trump administration appears to be ready to implement tougher sanctions. The U.S. must clarify its decision on its introduction of the THAAD system in South Korea and display its authority if it does not want to be looked down on by China.