By Eric Criscitelli
The relationship between the United States and North Korea is diminishing with the recent nuclear tests conducted by North Korea, in defiance of the United Nations’ sanctions and the arrival of a U.S. naval task force in the contested region. Caught between two allies, China is determined to create a diplomatic solution to maintain the status quo and keep its allies.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump have discussed the situation with North Korea and the Chinese president expressed his desire for a diplomatic solution.
Al Jazeera reports Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying, “I’ve seen that the United States has reiterated it is willing to use political and diplomatic means to resolve this, as this is their first choice.” The U.S. is open to both diplomacy and military force to achieve peace.
In February, China suspended coal imports from North Korea, but they resisted to end trading with the rogue nation. The New York Times reports that the Global Times, a state-run newspaper that often defends Chinese government policy, cautioned that North Korea would face harsher sanctions; they called for China to choke off the oil supply for North Korea. As stated by Reuters, North Korea relies heavily on China for food and fuel and is an important economics partner. China has been reluctant to pressure North Korea as their neighbor acts as a buffer between the U.S. troops in South Korea. It also fears the flood of refugees who would cross into China if North Korea’s fragile economy collapses.
However, China has shown tolerance to the actions of North Korea and has criticized the actions of the U.S. and South Korea. China has scorned the deployment of an American anti-missile system in South Korea. On the other hand, after Mr. Xi met with Mr. Trump, Beijing seemed willing to press Pyongyang.
The recent nuclear tests conducted by North Korea led U.S. Vice President Mike Pence to speak out against the threat in his speech to the aircraft carrier crew of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan.
According to CBS News, Mr. Pence said, “the United States of America will always seek peace but under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.” The U.S. is determined to defend the sovereignty of its allies within Asia against any North Korean attack. The U.S. is open to diplomatic solutions with North Korea but is willing to show its resolve against North Korea with or without Chinese support.
North Korean actions are particularly motivated by the presence of the U.S naval task force. According to USA Today, North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador Kim In Ryong accused the U.S. of turning the Korean peninsula into “the world’s biggest hotspot” and creating “a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment.” He declared the nuclear tests are defensive measures to cope with the U.S. threats. North Korea regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea, and the United States and it showed no let-up in its defiance after conducting a reportedly failed missile test on April 16.
Vice President Pence conducted a tour of the region stopping in South Korea and Japan to talk with the acting president of South Korea, Hwang Kyo-Ahn, and Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.