A global pressure campaign on North Korea propelled by sharp new U.N. sanctions received a welcome boost Sunday from China, the North’s economic lifeline, as Beijing called on the pariah nation to halt its missile and nuclear tests.
The Trump administration cautiously embraced China’s apparent newfound cooperation, while putting it on notice that the U.S. would be watching closely to ensure it didn’t ease up on Pyongyang if and when the world’s attention is diverted elsewhere. But there were no signs the U.S. would acquiesce to China’s call for a quick return to negotiations.
The diplomatic wrangling sought to build on sweeping new North Korea sanctions passed by the U.N. Security Council a day earlier – the strongest in a generation, the U.S. said. As diplomats gathered in the Philippines for an annual regional meeting, President Donald Trump was cheering the move from afar. He touted the “very big financial impact” of the sanctions and noted optimistically that both China and Russia had joined in the unanimous vote.
“It was a good outcome,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in characteristically understated fashion as he met with South Korea’s top diplomat.
For the U.S., it was a long-awaited sign of progress for Trump’s strategy of trying to enlist Beijing’s help to squeeze Pyongyang diplomatically and economically. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, sitting with North Korea’s top diplomat during the meeting in Manila, urged the North to “maintain calm” despite the U.N. vote.
“Do not violate U.N.’s decision or provoke international society’s goodwill by conducting missile launching or nuclear tests,” Wang said, in an unusually direct admonition.
Though Beijing repeated its call for the United States and North Korea to resume negotiations, the U.S. said that was still premature, and rejected yet again a Chinese call for the U.S. to freeze joint military exercises with South Korea in exchange for the North halting nuclear development.