A global pressure campaign on North Korea propelled by sharp new U.N. sanctions received a welcome boost yesterday 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 the 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, meeting with North Korea’s top diplomat during the gathering in Manila, urged the North to “maintain calm” despite the U.N. vote.
Infusing the diplomatic gathering with dramatic intrigue was the presence of Ri Yong Ho, North Korea’s foreign minister, the odd man out at a meeting dominated by concerns about his nation’s nuclear proliferation. Indeed, the U.S. was floating a proposal to temporarily kick North Korea out of the 27-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum, although other member nations are divided about that idea. Josh Lederman, AP