US, China agree to stop firms from doing business with North Korea over nuclear threat, Tillerson says
Pledge to impose UN sanctions on Pyongyang comes after Trump’s tweet that Beijing’s efforts to rein in the reclusive state have ‘not worked out’
China and the US held high-level security talks on Wednesday and called on North Korea to halt its missile and nuclear programme, despite US President Donald Trump’s tweeted claim a day earlier that Beijing’s efforts to rein in Pyongyang have “not worked out”.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a press conference after the talks that the US has made a commitment to hold North Korea accountable for multiple violations of UN Security Council resolutions that “explicitly prohibited its nuclear weapon and missile programme”.
“We both agreed that our companies should not do business with any UN-designated North Korean entities in accordance with these resolutions,” Tillerson said.
China restated its position that the Korean peninsula should be denuclearised, but added that the issue should be resolved through dialogue, according to a statement released by the Chinese embassy in the US.
The statement also restated China’s opposition to the deployment of a US developed anti-missile shield in South Korea.
Tillerson reiterated the Trump administration’s argument that China has the “diplomatic responsibility to exert pressure greater to prevent further escalation in the region”.
The two nations’ inaugural diplomatic and security dialogue in Washington came as tension in the Korean peninsula has risen after Otto Warmbier, a 22-year-old American student held by North Korea for nearly 18 months, died six days after returning to the US on June 13.
During the joint press conference with Tillerson, US Defence Secretary James Mattis accused North Korea of being “beyond any kind of understanding of law and order and humanity”. He added that Trump’s sentiments in his Twitter post represented “American people’s frustrations with the [North Korean] regime [which] provokes and provokes, and basically plays outside the rules”.
Trump said on Twitter on Tuesday that China’s efforts to bring a resolution to the North Korea crisis had “not worked out”, adding: “At least I know China tried!”
Mattis said the US and China both reaffirmed that the North Korean nuclear and missile programme was an urgent threat and both pledged a strong commitment to cooperate on the shared goal of denuclearising the Korean peninsula. “Meanwhile we will take necessary actions to defend ourselves and our allies,” he said.
Tillerson said he was unable to provide an update on the status of the other three Americans currently held in North Korea.
Abraham Denmark, former US deputy assistant secretary of defence for East Asia, who stepped down in January, said: “It is only a matter of time before the president realises that China is not going to solve this problem.” Denmark added that additional sanctions from the US, including against Chinese companies with alleged links with North Korea, were “certainly possible”.
The Trump administration has also provided China with a list of people or bodies that allegedly support Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons network, which Beijing needs to take action against, Tillerson told a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week.
A Chinese-based company, Mingzheng International Trading, is accused of laundering money on behalf of the Foreign Trade Bank, a North Korean lender subject to sanctions, the US Attorney’s office in the District of Columbia said last Thursday.
Heather Nauert, a US State Department spokeswoman, declined to comment after the US press conference on whether China had agreed to curb the cited Chinese groups’ trading with North Korea.
Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a security policy focused think tank in Washington, said: “Frustration is growing in the administration that China is not [doing] enough in this regard.”
Glaser added that if Beijing does not work more actively to stop these activities or take other measures such as reducing crude oil exports, there was likely to be more friction between the US and China over North Korea.
In signs reflecting the two nations tensions over China’s more assertive claims in the South China Sea, Tillerson said the US opposed the “militarisation” of disputed waters in the region and “excessive maritime claims unsupported by international law”. The US would “uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight”, he said.
China called on the US not to take sides over the disputes and respect China’s territorial sovereignty, the Chinese embassy statement said.