China, US vow to address North Korea nuclear threat

Chinese tanker soldiers with the People’s Liberation Army. Wikimedia Commons  U.S. Air Force

"We continue to urge China to exert its unique leverage as North Korea's largest trading partner to convince Pyongyang to return to serious talks on denuclearization", State Department spokeswoman Anna Richey-Allen said.

The ministry said the ban would come into force Sunday and be effective until December 31. The temporary ban, which the Ministry of Commerce said would remain through the end of this year, follows North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan this month, in defiance of global sanctions.

US President Donald Trump's surprisingly restrained reaction to North Korea's latest ballistic missile test has left many observers wondering what his next move will be.

The warning comes after Beijing suspended coal imports from North Korea last week, Efe news reported.

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The decision follows the UN Security Council's Resolution 2321, which was approved last November, according to a joint statement by the Ministry of Commerce and the country's General Administration of Customs. China says it is committed to enforcing United Nations sanctions against its unpredictable neighbour, whose nuclear and missile tests have angered Beijing. Trump's economic team is stacked with skeptics of Beijing, and his national security team includes such China hawks as Mattis and Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, the new national security adviser.

China's decision came less than a week after North Korea's latest missile test, as tensions escalate over the state's defiance of United Nations resolutions. The idea that North Korea is "China's problem", or that the path to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula runs through China is a risky fallacy. "Rebar jumped on anticipation that the ban on North Korean anthracite could lead to higher costs for steel mills that will struggle to find cheaper alternatives in the domestic market", said Zhang Min, a coal analyst based in Zibo, Shandong with Sublime Information Group. Relying on China is not only unlikely to solve the problem, it could also give Beijing a card to play in other negotiations with the United States. We ignore China's enduring strategic interests in North Korea at our peril.

Trump hasn't made it clear what his policy on North Korea will be. And with the Communist Party of China's 19th National Congress looming later this year, President Xi Jinping will not want to be perceived as giving in to U.S. pressure. If enforced, the loss of coal revenue could tighten the screws on leader Kim Jong Un after his government's acceleration of nuclear and missile tests this previous year.

Unless the North Korea problem is separated from the strategic competition between the United States and China, diplomatic efforts will continue to fail.

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