This served as an indication that the ongoing trade war with Beijing may exacerbate geopolitical tensions.
“North Korea is under tremendous pressure from China because of our major trade disputes with the Chinese Government,” Trump stated in a series of tweets Wednesday, which he called a White House statement. “At the same time, we also know that China is providing North Korea with considerable aid, including money, fuel, fertilizer and various other commodities. This is not helpful!”
Last week, Trump called off a trip to North Korea by Secreatary of Stae Michael Pompeo, stating that there hadn’t been enough progress in talks that were aimed at denuclearising the Korean Peninsula. He stated that he would most likely return after US trade disputes with China were resolved. China has repeatedly stated that it enforces United Nations sanctions on North Korea.
Trump’s remarks deepen concerns that the fallout from the trade spat will eventually morph into a protracted conflict–similar to last century’s rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union. Suspicions have risen in Beijing that Trump’s tariffs are part of a wider strategy to thwart China’s rise as a global power.
The trade war between the US and China is primed to escalate further after their governments failed to make progress last week. So far, the US has slapped tariffs on $50 bn worth of Chinese imports, with another $200 bn in the pipeline that could take effect as early as next month. China has retaliated with equal tariffs, and has pledged further measures.
“As for the US–China trade disputes, and other differences, they will be resolved in time by President Trump and China’s great President Xi Jinping,” Trump stated on Wednesday. “Their relationship and bond remain very strong.”
The US has leaned heavily on China– which shares a border with North Korea and is its largest trading partner– to help enforce tougher sanctions imposed last year against Kim Jong Un’s regime. Trump stated on Wedensday that China “is the route to North Korea.”
In hitting out at China, Trump seemed to be offering an olive branch to North Korea even as he acknowledged the talks are stalled just months after his historic summit with Kim. He stated that his relationship with Kim remained “very good and warm,” and that he saw no immediate need to resume military drills with South Korea and Japan.
In the months since Trump and Kim met in Singapore, the US has struggled to show signs of progress in its bid to get North Korea to dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Pompeo conceded before the Senate recently that the Kim government continues producing fissile material and has provided no inventory of its nuclear program and facilities.
In a diplomatic gesture to Pyongyang in June, Trump suspended what he called “war games” with South Korea, saying he believed Kim “wants to get it done” on denuclearization. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday said the US doesn’t plan to suspend more joint military drills amid reports that North Korea was rejecting American demands to give up nuclear warheads.
In his statement Wednesday saying that military drills would remain suspended, Trump added: “The President can instantly start the joint exercises again with South Korea, and Japan, if he so chooses. If he does, they will be far bigger than ever before.”
The US has conducted military exercises on the Korean Peninsula since the mid-1950s and holds a handful of joint operations with South Korea every year, which the Pentagon calls a means of ensuring the two forces are able to work together in the event of an attack.
These annual drills have long been a point of contention with North Korea’s leaders.