- Thomas Peter/Reuters
- President Donald Trump tweeted that he spoke to China’s president and will handle the North Korea situation in light of Pyongyang’s ICBM test on Tuesday.
- Trump usually leans on China to help with North Korea, but so far nothing has stopped Pyongyang.
- To handle North Korea fully, sanctions have proven an ineffective tool. Trump pairs the sanctions with military buildups.
President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that he had spoken to China’s president and repeated that he would handle the North Korea situation.
“Just spoke to President XI JINPING of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea. Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!” Trump tweeted.
The tweet echoes Trump’s previous statement in which he said very little about North Korea’s recent missile launch, except that it would be taken care of. He has also repeatedly stressed China’s role in pressuring North Korea, often looking to Xi to act against Pyongyang after military provocations.
China provides 90% of North Korea’s external trade and a huge portion of its energy imports. Theoretically, China could cut off exports to North Korea and cause the regime to collapse, but doing so would run counter to Beijing’s foreign policy goals, as it could lead to a US military presence right on its border.
But North Korea already exists under the tightest sanctions on earth. After North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test in September, the UN Security Council unanimously passed sanctions against the country.
North Korea has accelerated its pace of missile testing as it nears completion of an intercontinental ballistic missile, but Trump has managed to rally countries against Pyongyang and isolate the rogue regime.
Paul Bracken, a professor of political science at Yale, told Business Insider that “the Trump administration has been reasonably effective” at isolating North Korea by working with US allies and countries like China. Trump “is mobilizing opinion in many countries to recognize the North Korean nuclear threat,” Bracken said.
- Thomson Reuters
But North Korea developing and testing long-range missiles to threaten the US with won’t be handled by sanctions alone. North Korea has been under serious sanctions for over a decade and has still managed the progress it enjoys today.
Instead, the Trump administration has opted for a strategy of “maximum pressure,” whereby the US increases military drills and presence in the region while pushing sanctions and diplomatic solutions to the crisis.