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North Korea nuclear crisis

At Florida rally, Donald Trump says China may be ‘getting in our way’ on North Korea

Trump didn’t provide details on how China was interfering in nuclear talks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 August, 2018, 3:59pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 August, 2018, 9:34pm

US President Donald Trump suggested China is obstructing nuclear talks with North Korea as the world’s two biggest economies tussle over trade.

Trump’s remark at a political rally Wednesday in Tampa, Florida, was the latest sign of friction between the US and North Korea, as they attempt to implement on Kim’s June 12 agreement to “work toward complete denuclearisation”.

The president made the claim during a long defence of his trade war with China.

“We are doing well in North Korea, although I happen to think that we’re doing so well with China that China maybe is getting in our way,” Trump said, noting that Kim has continued to refrain from launching missiles.

“No tests. No rockets flying. We’ll see what happens.”

Trump didn’t provide details on how China was interfering in the nuclear talks.

It wasn’t the first time Trump has suggested that China was relaxing pressure on North Korea amid the simmering trade dispute.

After his summit with Kim in Singapore, Trump acknowledged that his trade disputes could discourage Chinese President Xi Jinping’s cooperation, saying “the border is more open than it was when we first started”.

Besides being the US’s largest trading partner, China is arguably the most important player in Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign to force Kim to give up his nuclear arsenal.

After an April 2017 meeting at the president’s Mar-a-Lago home, Xi supported successive rounds of United Nations sanctions and clamped down on border trade with North Korea.

China has so far avoided publicly conflating the disputes over trade and North Korea. The government has said only that the UN Security Council -where China and the US both wield vetoes – should revisit sanctions after Kim’s meeting with Trump.

Since the Singapore summit, independent researchers and US intelligence reports published by news organisations have suggested that North Korea is still expanding its weapons programme.

The regime has continued to assemble intercontinental ballistic missiles at a plant near Pyongyang, The Washington Post reported Monday, citing people familiar with US intelligence.

Trump told the rally that had a good relationship with Kim.

“There’s nothing like talking,” he said.

Trump’s comments came ahead of a security forum in Singapore this week, where US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart were expected to attend.

A US official said Washington was “concerned” by North Korean violations of UN-approved sanctions, including illegal shipments of oil by sea.

Gatherings like Saturday’s Asean Regional Forum are “an opportunity to remind all countries of their obligations in adherence” of UN Security Council resolutions, the official said.

The annual forum, hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), brings together top diplomats from 26 countries and the European Union for talks on political and security issues in Asia-Pacific.

The foreign ministers from all nations involved in stalled “six-party” negotiations with North Korea aimed at reining in Pyongyang’s nuclear programme will be at the gathering: the US, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.

Cutting off oil and fuel to the North would require enforcement primarily by China, which supplies most of North Korea’s energy needs, but also by Russia, which delivers some oil to Pyongyang.

Despite the concerns about the North’s progress toward abandoning its nuclear weapons, ministers at the forum are expected to strike an upbeat note about the agreement between Trump and Kim.

They will encourage the US and Pyongyang “to continue working towards the realisation of lasting peace and stability on a denuclearised Korean Peninsula”, according to a draft copy of the chairman’s statement obtained by AFP.

US officials have not said if Pompeo will meet his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong-ho, on the sidelines of the forum.

But even if he does, Sung-Yoon Lee, a Korea expert at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, was sceptical that there would be any fresh signs of progress when it came to denuclearisation.

“Pompeo shall gain nothing substantive other than North Korea’s amenability to further talks about talks,” he said.

Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse