Preempting Trump, China Dumps Blame For North Korean Missile Launch On US

REUTERS/Jacky Chen

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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China is blaming the U.S. for North Korea’s test of a powerful new type of ballistic missile.

North Korea tested a new cold-launch, solid-fueled, surface-to-surface, medium-range ballistic missile Sunday. Possibly expecting increased pressure from Trump, who has repeatedly criticized China in the past for not doing enough to rein in North Korea, China is pushing the blame onto the U.S. and South Korea for the latest manifestation of Northern aggression.

“As I have pointed out in the past, the root cause of the North Korea nuclear missile issue is the conflicts between North Korea and the U.S., as well as between North and South Korea,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang said Monday. He repeated this position four times during the press conference.

The White House is currently exploring possible responses to North Korea’s latest provocation.

President Donald Trump and his team may choose to impose new sanctions, deploy additional combat assets to the peninsula, or even accelerate the planned deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system on South Korean soil.

“Under current circumstances, relevant sides should not provoke each other or take actions that would escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula,” Geng further remarked.

China has undermined sanctions, criticized the U.S. for sending military assets into the region, and expressed strong opposition to U.S. plans for the deployment of THAAD in South Korea.

While China publicly condemns North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic provocations and even agreed to certain punitive United Nations Security Council actions, it remains one of the North’s most important allies. Beijing regularly asserts that the U.S., Japan, and South Korea, proponents of ratcheting up the pressure on Pyongyang, are to blame for North Korea’s reckless behavior. China believes the burden of guilt primarily lies with the U.S.

“The cause and crux of the North Korean nuclear issue rest with the U.S. rather than China. The core of the issue is the conflict between the DPRK and the U.S. It is the U.S. who should reflect upon how the situation has become what it is today and search for a better solution,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said after the North conducted its fifth nuclear test in September last year.

Before he took office, Trump called China out for doing nothing to stop North Korea multiple times.

“Look at North Korea, we’re doing nothing there … China should solve that problem for us. China should go into North Korea. China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea,” Trump said during the first presidential debate.

“China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea. Nice!” he tweeted in January after Kim Jong-un announced his country is close to completing an intercontinental ballistic missile.

In response to the latter, foreign ministry spokesman Geng said that China’s contributions are “clear for all to see.”

“China has made great efforts to resolve the nuclear issue on the Peninsula,” the spokesman explained. “China’s position on the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is consistent and clear. We insist on the denuclearization of the peninsula to maintain peace and stability, and we hope to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation.”

“Seoul, Washington and Tokyo have been asking Beijing to pile more pressure on Pyongyang to force the latter to give up its nuclear development. The reality is that they are treating a secondary issue and not the root cause. If this continues, they will be lost in the maze of North Korea’s nuclear issue,” the Global Times argued Sunday.

Following Sunday’s ballistic missile test, a U.S. official told Reuters that Trump was likely to push China to put pressure on North Korea.

“China, on its part, will continue to work with other parties including the US to push for the settlement of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue and maintain peace and stability on the Peninsula,” Geng said Monday, emphasizing the importance of dialogue and consultation.

Trump had an “extremely cordial” phone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday evening. At the moment, it is unclear how the president will engage China on this issue.

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