China May Be Pressing US to Talk with North Korea

North Korea has reportedly directed rare and harsh criticism at China, its major worldwide ally, accusing Beijing of giving in to the United States' demands by tightening its own sanctions against Pyongyang.

China is "dancing to the tune of the U.S.", North Korea's state-run news agency charged Thursday while decrying China's support of United Nations sanctions limiting coal imports from North Korea, saying China's actions amount to those of an enemy state.

The latter is an enormous economic powerhouse and an American ally with USA troops on its soil - North Korea serves as an important buffer for China.

Still, the impact of the April ban had already been felt heavily in Dandong.

Local management at state-owned Liaoning Greenland Energy Coal Group, which runs the yard, confirmed the suspension of coal shipments, which used to arrive by boat on the Yalu river that separates China from North Korea. Beijing, of course, values North Korea as a buffer state and does not want a reunified and resurgent Korea, because that will open a new threat, including bringing American troops to China's border. And around 85 percent of the country's external trade is with China. The North Korean regime owes its survival to China, and China benefits from the North's unique situation.

Despite South Korean and U.S. emphasis on the defensive nature of THAAD, Beijing is suspicious of the capacity that the system's radars have to monitor China's own missiles.

This could be the right moment to make just such an overture. The imperative to adopt a new tack, however, is being obscured by developments such as Pyongyang's first missile test since Trump's election triumph and the mysterious killing of Kim Jong-un's estranged half brother, Kim Jong-nam, at Kuala Lumpur airport. If North Korea is allowed to push too hard against the West, that could provoke retaliation or perhaps even an invasion from the South-thus putting Western forces right on China's doorstep and causing a mass exodus of potentially millions of North Korean citizens across the Chinese border.

"And China should solve that problem".

New U.S. President Donald Trump promised to deal with North Korea "very strongly" after its latest missile test and called on China to get tougher.

These are all reasons for China to take steps to reign in its its neighbor.

Stephan Haggard, a North Korea expert at the University of California, San Diego, suggested that by changing its attitude towards Pyongyang, Beijing is offering "a cooperative gesture to the incoming Trump administration in return for an initiative on negotiations". After all, North Korea provides China a buffer to US -influenced powers in the region. While the US has turned very inward-focused, nations like China are rallying to fill the leadership void.

However, in a phone call with Chinese leader Xi Jinping last week, Trump agreed to honor the "one China" policy, a major diplomatic boost for Beijing, which brooks no criticism of its claim to self-ruled Taiwan.

  • Leroy Wright