August 8, 2017
North Korea’s Closest Ally Just Turned Against Them
The United States’ much-hyped trade war with China appears to be on hold at the moment. On Monday, the Trump administration made a conciliatory gesture to the Asian superpower following its agreement to restrict North Korean exports of coal, iron, lead, and seafood. From Bloomberg:
“President Donald Trump plans to wait at least a week and possibly longer on moving forward with a trade investigation of China on intellectual property violations after the country backed UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea, an administration official said.”
The unnamed administration insider told Bloomberg that while Trump and his team “remain concerned over what the U.S. perceives as Chinese violations of intellectual property” and that a trade investigation is still an option, the White House wanted to “encourage and reward China’s cooperation on North Korea and is balancing national security concerns against domestic economic considerations.”
While the idea of a trade war with China is nothing new under Donald Trump — the president has long held that China has an unfair advantage in its trading policies with the U.S. — analysts have been particularly concerned lately due to Trump’s continuing frustration with China over the issue of North Korea’s missile program.
Speculation was high last week that the Trump administration was preparing to take unilateral action against China via the little-used Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. That section allows the president to impose tariffs or trade restrictions in the name of protecting U.S. commerce.
A White House announcement on the Section 301 investigation had even been scheduled for last Friday. But by Thursday, as POLITICO reported last week, the announcement was postponed “at the urging of United Nations and State Department officials, who are in the sensitive final stages of convincing China to sign on to a U.N. resolution that would impose new sanctions on North Korea.”
“There are broader talks about diplomatic considerations,” a Trump administration official told POLITICO.
Whether or not Trump’s backing off on the trade angle was what ultimately got China to go along with sanctions, the fact remains that China did go along — knowing full well it would be the one hardest hit in economic terms.
“Owing to China’s traditional economic ties with North Korea, it will mainly be China paying the price for implementing the resolution,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Monday while speaking at a forum in Manila, according to a statement released by the foreign ministry Tuesday.
“But in order to protect the international non-proliferation system and regional peace and stability, China will, as before, fully and strictly properly implement the entire contents of the relevant resolution,” the statement cited Yi as saying.
The sanctions are aimed at slashing a full third of the Hermit Kingdom’s annual $3 billion in exports.
Patrick Cronin, an Asia specialist with the think tank Center for a New American Society, told CNN that “for China to join, on top of the international community, sends a signal to North Korea that this is serious economic damage if they don’t find a way to reduce those sanctions and the pressure from that.”
United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley agrees that if nothing else, China’s decision to go along with sanctions marks a move toward international cohesion on the North Korea issue.
“What this is going to do is send a very strong message and a united message,” she told NBC in an interview Tuesday.
Donald Trump himself struck a similar chord, tweeting:
“After many years of failure, countries are coming together to finally address the dangers posed by North Korea. We must be tough & decisive!”
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