North Korea fires ballistic missile ahead of Trump-Xi meeting

While the two leaders are likely to discuss a gamut of bilateral issues during the two-day meeting at Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence, matters related to trade, economic policies and North Korea are expected to figure prominently during their talks, senior White House officials said yesterday. "And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won't", Trump said.

The launch came amid worries that the North might conduct banned nuclear or rocket tests ahead of the first summit between President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping this week.

The 60 kilometers is a relatively short flight compared with the distances that other North Korean missiles flew.

The administration has not acted on unilateral tariffs but is targeting a reduction in China's $347 billion goods trade surplus through tougher enforcement of trade laws and anti-dumping and anti-subsidy duties. China has sought throughout the 20-year nuclear dispute with North Korea to limit all solutions to the problem to diplomatic and non-military measures.

North Korea's foreign ministry on Monday assailed Washington for its tough talk and for an ongoing joint military exercise with South Korea and Japan which Pyongyang sees as a dress rehearsal for invasion.

The launch is the country's third in as many months.

That could have a chilling effect on global finance, even though diplomats say North Korea is increasingly alive to the risk and has steadily been funneling cash to Singapore and other jurisdictions outside China.

"The clock has now run out, and all options are on the table", the official said in respect to the failure of successive efforts to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear program.

But any headway Trump hopes to make on advancing his trade agenda could also be overshadowed by the increasing urgency of North Korea's nuclear program, which Trump views as the greatest threat to USA national security.

Despite a raft of United Nations sanctions being imposed on North Korea, the reclusive state has carried out two nuclear weapons tests since January 2016.

But Beijing is wary of putting too much pressure on North Korea for fear of the unpredictable consequences if the state collapses.

While submarines are also a stealthy way to do that, North Korea doesn't have enough of them.

Criticism of China's trade policies and its alleged unfair trade practices was a key component of Trump's 2016 campaign.

Noting that Trump, who has been in the White House for over two months, might not have a "comprehensive China strategy" in place with his entire foreign policy team being assembled, he observed that the U.S. president is turning from "tough talk to pragmatism" on policies towards China. Seoul called a National Security Council meeting and vowed to respond strongly in case of further provocations. In January, for example, when Kim Jong-un boasted of the regime's nuclear ambitions during an annual New Year address, he went on Twitter to bash Beijing. The missile launch may be a precursor, with more to come as the summit starts later this week, Cossa said.

Hyten added that while he believed Beijing's involvement was critical, he said that he will provide military options to the president to deal with the threat from North Korea.

  • Leroy Wright