US says building ‘global coalition’ to subdue North Korea a day before Trump-Xi summit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 4:21am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 April, 2017, 11:35pm

The US is building a “global coalition” to subdue North Korea, a US Department of State official said today, following the latest missile test by China’s neighbour and traditional ally.

Susan Thornton, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, made the comment at a briefing on tomorrow’s meeting between US President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping.

Calling yesterday’s missile test by North Korea “Illegal,” Thornton said: “Patience has basically come to an end. We are looking for an action-focused, results-oriented approach. We are going to be trying to cooperate with allies and partners in a global coalition to try to solve this problem in an urgent way that we haven’t really taken up before.”

North Korea’s military provocation was first on a list of items Trump and Xi will discuss when they meet at Mar-a-Lago, the US leader’s seaside resort in Palm Beach, Florida. The two presidents are scheduled to arrive in Palm Beach tomorrow for talks aimed at setting “a new course for US-China relations for the next 40-50 years,” Thornton said.

“If you’re going to rely on sanctions and enhancing deterrents [to undercut North Korea’s military provocations], it has to be pretty multilateral and comprehensive, and you can’t have China undermining efforts,” said Richard Bush, director of the Brookings Institution’s Centre for East Asia Policy Studies.

“Negotiating with China and a group of allies is not inconsistent because if you don’t have some basic understanding with China about a basic approach, working with allies and partners is only going to get you part-way.”

Why the Xi-Trump summit is a high stakes gamble

China is coming under increasing pressure over its trade relationship with Pyongyang because the vast majority of North Korean exports – primarily coal – go to Chinese markets. Those imports began to decline in February, after new UN Security Council sanctions curbing Pyongyang’s sales abroad came into effect.

North Korea’s missile tests have continued since February, including a missile fired from the North’s eastern coastal town of Sinpo on Wednesday morning, which flew about 60 km over the ocean between the Korean peninsula and Japan.

Previous attempts to use multilateral pressure, inclusive of China, to subdue North Korea’s military provocations were a failure.

Several rounds of six-nation talks stretching over four years, aimed at persuading North Korea to forgo its nuclear programme in exchange for aid, ended in 2008, when Pyongyang’s delegation refused to allow inspections to verify compliance. Hosted in Beijing, those talks also included the US, Japan, South Korea, and Russia.