Trump’s Patience With China Runs Out As Kim Jong Un Fires Off An ICBM

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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President Donald Trump has seemingly pinned his hopes for a swift resolution of the North Korean nuclear problem on China, but that strategy has failed to yield any real results.

The administration, having declared the end of the Obama-era policy of “strategic patience,” has been implementing a strategy of “maximum pressure and engagement,” which supposedly involves economic sanctions, military deterrence, and diplomatic pressure in an effort to force Pyongyang to the negotiating table.

The president’s tweets show a noticeable deterioration in his view of China and its efforts to address the North Korea issue.

Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago in April, and the two world leaders discussed the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, as well as China’s role in the solution and the reduction of regional tensions.

In the wake of the meeting, the president expressed confidence in China’s ability to handle the situation, especially as Beijing suspended coal imports from North Korea and put additional pressure on the regime.

That confidence faded after the death of Otto Warmbier, a U.S. college student who was sent home in a coma after a year in detention in North Korea for an absurd crime. The student was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly pilfering a North Korean propaganda poster. Pyongyang later announced that it was holding Warmbier as a “prisoner of war” for attempting to overthrow the regime.

Now, it appears that Trump’s patience with China has run out.

North Korea has tested multiple new missiles this year, including short-, medium-, and intermediate-range missiles, as well as surface-to-air and coastal defense missiles. North Korea made a major breakthrough Tuesday, when it tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that North Korea claims can carry a nuclear warhead and some experts suspect can range Alaska. The North can now develop a functional nuclear deterrence strategy against the U.S.

Before it was confirmed that the latest missile was an ICBM, Trump pushed China again on Twitter.

U.S. and South Korean defense officials confirmed the launch of an ICBM Tuesday, and that news has apparently shaken Trump’s trust in China’s ability or willingness to stop North Korea from moving forward with its plans to develop weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. Trump attacked China on Twitter Wednesday for its bilateral trade with North Korea.

The Trump administration came down hard on China last week, possibly due to growing frustration with Beijing.

The Department of State listed China as one of the worst offenders of human trafficking last Tuesday. As the U.S. approved the sale of weapons to Taiwan Thursday, the Department of Treasury sanctioned a Chinese bank for laundering money for the North Korean regime. The U.S. Navy then conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation Sunday.

Beijing expressed outrage after each incident, and Xi warned Trump Sunday that “negative factors” are impacting the U.S.-China relationship.

While China does not have absolute leverage over North Korea, it has significant sway, but Beijing’s interests and vision for the region are very different from those of Washington. China has been very reluctant to apply the kind of pressure that Trump expects.

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