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Donald Trump

Donald Trump dismisses Chinese diplomacy with North Korea as having ‘no impact on Little Rocket Man’

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 3:29am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 December, 2017, 11:04am

US President Donald Trump dismissed a Chinese diplomatic effort to rein in North Korea’s weapons programme as a failure on Thursday, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Beijing should do more to limit oil supplies to Pyongyang.

In a tweet, Trump delivered another insulting barb against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who he called “Little Rocket Man” and a “sick puppy” after North Korea test-fired its most advanced missile to date on Wednesday.

“The Chinese envoy, who just returned from North Korea, seems to have had no impact on Little Rocket Man,” Trump said on Twitter, a day after speaking with Chinese President Chinese President Xi Jinping and reiterating his call for Beijing to use its leverage against North Korea.

Separately on Thursday, Tillerson welcomed Chinese efforts on North Korea, but said Beijing could do more to limit its oil exports to the country.

“The Chinese are doing a lot. We do think they could do more with the oil. We’re really asking them to please restrain more of the oil, not cut it off completely,” Tillerson said at the State Department. China is North Korea’s neighbour and its sole major trading partner.

Trump jeopardising relations with China

While Trump has been bellicose at times in rhetoric toward North Korea, Tillerson has persistently held out hopes for a return to dialogue if North Korea shows it is willing to give up its nuclear weapons programme.

However, Tillerson may not remain in his job long, with disagreements with Trump over North Korea being one factor. On Thursday, a senior Trump administration official said the White House had developed a plan to replace Tillerson with Mike Pompeo, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

White House plans to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state within weeks

In spite of Trump’s rhetoric and warnings that all options, including military ones, are on the table in dealing with North Korea, his administration has stressed it favours a diplomatic solution to the crisis, which stems from Pyongyang’s pursuit of a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the United States.

Tensions have flared anew since North Korea said it had successfully tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile on Wednesday in a “breakthrough” that put the US mainland within range of its nuclear weapons whose warheads could withstand re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere.

Trump has pledged more sanctions in response to the latest test and, at an emergency UN Security Council meeting late Wednesday, the United States warned North Korea’s leadership would be “utterly destroyed” if war were to break out.

In a call with Trump on Thursday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the missile launched this week was North Korea’s most advanced so far, but it was unclear whether Pyongyang had the technology to miniaturise a nuclear warhead and it still needed to prove other things, such as its re-entry technology.

A White House statement said Trump and Moon reiterated their strong commitment to enhancing the deterrence and defence capabilities of the US-South Korea alliance and added: “Both leaders reaffirmed their strong commitment to compelling North Korea to return to the path of denuclearisation at any cost.”

North Korea has tested dozens of ballistic missiles under Kim’s leadership and conducted its sixth and largest nuclear bomb test in September.

It has said its weapons programmes are a necessary defence against US plans to invade. The United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, denies any such intention.

Previous US administrations have failed to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and a sophisticated missile programme. Trump, who has previously said the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea if necessary to protect itself and its allies from the nuclear threat, has also struggled to contain Pyongyang since taking office in January.

China earlier this month praised the friendship between it and North Korea after its special envoy visited Pyongyang.