Ultimately, the top-level meetings between the U.S. and China led to minimal results. Regarding the results of these talks, President Trump remarked on the development of an outstanding relationship, yet there was not a single issue in which they two parties came to an agreement. The U.S. has been at a disadvantage to China for many years on issues such as the trade deficit and job losses to China. The manner in which the U.S. takes a friendly position in face-to-face meetings with negotiating partners while launching brutal verbal salvos at them from a distance may simply be the Trumpian negotiating style. However, the biggest issue looming is the weak-kneed diplomacy of China on the issue of North Korea.
It was recently found that China accounted for over 90% of North Korea’s trade volume last year. This is precisely the reason why the U.S. as well as international organizations emphasize the importance of China’s role in the effort to increase the effectiveness of economic sanctions against North Korea. According to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Trade Center (ITC), North Korea’s 2016 trade value totals 6.02 billion dollars, with 2.83 billion in exports and 3.19 billion in imports. Of this amount, 5.51 billion dollars in trade was done with China, making up 91.5% of their entire trade value.
There are believed to be a number of reasons why China does not display a tough stance in regard to North Korea. There is no doubt that economically, China is vital to North Korea. Yet at the same time, North Korea does not entrust their national security to China. In addition, as a nuclear state itself, China cannot speak out strongly against North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons. China may also be hindered by the concepts of mutual respect of sovereignty and non-interference in domestic matters outlined in the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty. China has a history of conflicts with a number of countries with which it shares a border, such as Russia, Vietnam, and India. The fact may very well be that North Korea, with which China also shares a border, will not be so easily broken away from.
However, the level of danger felt by the American people has seen a notable rise. At North Korea’s present level of military technology, the risks to the Continental United States are very low, but the danger posed to American soldiers stationed in Asia is at its highest level yet. The U.S. military stationed in Asia may feel relieved to know that the U.S. has stated that if China does nothing the U.S. may act unilaterally. Moreover, with the attack on Syria, the U.S. was able to prove its level of commitment to this issue. However, if America acts unilaterally, that means that China has done nothing, leading to a great deal of criticism being placed on China by the international community due to China’s acceptance of the errant actions of North Korea. What is China thinking by acting so forcefully with countries such as South Korea and Japan, all the while doing nothing when it comes to North Korea?
North Korea is approaching a number of anniversaries this month. The April 11 marks the start of the 5th year since Kim Jong-un was declared supreme leader, April 15 celebrates 105 years since the birth of Kim Il-sung, and April 25 commemorates the 85th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army. April is a month that represents an important part of the year to North Korea. On such anniversaries, it is a common tactic for North Korea to engage in behaviors meant to intimidate, often involving nuclear weapons tests and missile launches. This April is the time to put an end to the provocative actions of North Korea. This month it will become clear whether China truly is the friend of this totalitarian nation.