Washington, Beijing Put the Screws to Pyongyang with Renewed Sanctions
As part of an ever-intensifying effort to lean on North Korea’s nuclear program, China and the United States have agreed to further tighten sanctions on the Hermit Kingdom.
Specifically, they are banning American and Chinese companies from doing business with North Korean industries.
For years, and particularly since the beginning of the most recent crisis, Washington has urged Beijing to put more pressure on Pyongyang, which heavily relies on China for imports and exports.
Eighty-five percent of North Korea's imports in 2015 came from China, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity.
For the most part, China has not done this. Until mid-April, they were importing far more coal from North Korea than allowed by the UN.
According to the Japanese Nikkei Asian Review, China reduced coal imports in April but has also quadrupled iron imports since 2016 to make up for the loss.
Some foreign policy experts have argued that the international community must engineer similar circumstances to the strict sanctions against Iran that led to the 2015 deal that slowed the Iranian nuclear program.
If such a thing is possible in North Korea, then China is clearly the key.
Top leaders from both countries met to discuss what the world's two largest economies would do about their mutual problem of North Korea.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis met with Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Chief of Joint Staff General Fang Fenghui, during the inaugural Diplomatic Secretary Dialogue on Wednesday.
"We both agreed that our companies should not do business with any UN-designated North Korean entities in accordance with these resolutions," Tillerson told reporters following the meeting, adding that Washington sees North Koreas as a "top security threat."
"We reiterated to China that they have a diplomatic responsibility to exert much greater economic and diplomatic pressure on the regime if they want to prevent further escalation in the region," Tillerson added.
"Countries around the world and in the UN Security Council are joining in this effort and we hope China will do their part as well," he said, referring to the new round of sanctions that went into effect at the beginning of June.
These sanctions mostly target North Korean financial institutions such as Koryo Bank and the Kangbong Trading Corporation.
This flies in the face of a tweet from Tillerson's boss, US President Donald Trump, that has caused a great deal of hand-wringing: "While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out.
At least I know China tried!"
Mattis also spoke following the meeting, and his frustration was palpable.
When asked about Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old American student who died after being detained for 17 months in North Korea for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda banner, Mattis called the DPRK's actions "beyond any kind of understanding of law and order."
"So what you’re seeing, I think, is the American people’s frustration with a regime that provokes, and provokes, and provokes and basically plays outside the rules, plays fast and loose with the truth," he fumed.