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Trump blames China for interfering

Beijing is ‘exerting negative pressure’ on North because of trade
July 11,2018
U.S. President Donald Trump suggested that China may be impeding U.S. efforts toward a denuclearization deal with North Korea on Monday because of the burgeoning trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Trump, however, also relayed through Twitter that he was confident that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would uphold the “contract” signed at their summit on June 12 in Singapore, which kicked off with a historic handshake at a hotel on Sentosa Island.

“I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake,” Trump wrote in a tweet Monday.

“We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea. China, on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese Trade-Hope Not!”

The U.S.-China trade war officially kicked off after the Trump administration last Friday imposed a 25 percent tariff on imports worth some $34 billion from China, and in turn, Beijing started charging the same levy on an equal amount of American imports. Trump headed to Brussels for a NATO summit this week, where he is expected to harp on American allies not spending enough on defense.

Trump is no stranger to linking security issues with trade or sending mixed signals. He has called Chinese President Xi Jinping a good friend and lauded him for his role in tightening sanctions on Pyongyang, while in the same breath saying China could do more on the North Korea issue and accusing Beijing of loosening sanctions on the North.

The president’s comment comes after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made his first trip to Pyongyang following the Singapore summit for tough talks with Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the North Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee and director of the committee’s United Front Department, which is responsible for inter-Korean relations.

North Korea rebuked Pompeo through its state media for his “gangster-like” demands for disarmament, but the secretary of state brushed off the remarks and raised the possibility of a Vietnamese model of economic prosperity and normalization of diplomatic ties with the United States. Pompeo has also said that stringent economic sanctions on North Korea - which rely on implementation by China - will remain until its complete denuclearization.

North Korean leader Kim held three summits with President Xi since March, the latest on June 19 in Beijing, a week after his talks in Singapore with Trump.

Trump described “a little change in attitude” from North Korea following Kim’s second summit with Xi in Dalian, northeastern China, in early May. The summit preparations nearly got derailed in late May before a visit by Kim Yong-chol to the United States, which got them back on track.

More hawkish U.S. lawmakers have also been blaming China for North Korea’s rebuke of the United States following Pompeo’s visit.

“I see China’s hands all over this,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, told Fox News Sunday. “We are in a fight with China ... They cheat and President Trump wants to change the economic relationship with China.” He cited the trade imbalance between the two countries.

“So, if I were President Trump, I would not let China use North Korea to back me off of the trade dispute,” said Graham.

Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said in a press briefing Monday on Graham’s accusations against Beijing, “I believe that it does not make any sense,” adding that China “will continue to play a positive role in and make constructive contributions to realizing the denuclearization of the peninsula.”

She however also addressed U.S. Navy destroyers sailing through the Taiwan Strait, and said that China has expressed “concerns” to the United States over this, adding that “the Taiwan question bears on China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and it is the most important and sensitive issue in China-U.S. relations.”

China’s state-affiliated Global Times ran an op-ed piece Monday, “Art of the deal unsuitable for North Korean nuke issue,” which said that the U.S. trade war against China, and its playing up of the Taiwan and South China Sea issues, would only deepen Beijing’s “strategic distrust” of the United States and “eventually torpedo the resolution of the North Korea issue.”

Li Kaisheng, a research fellow at the Institute of International Relations of the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, wrote the piece. “If the Trump administration continues recklessly pressuring China and playing tricks with North Korea,” he wrote, “Beijing will have to go after its goals in its own way to protect its security and economic interests on international issues such as North Korea and trade with the U.S. Pyongyang will likely halt the hard-won start of the denuclearization process.”

Pompeo was not granted a meeting with leader Kim this time around, unlike on his previous two visits in April and May, and he admitted that denuclearization negotiations will prove challenging.

Getting North Korea to make a “fundamental strategic decision” to give up their nuclear weapons is “a decades long challenge,” Pompeo said, while visiting troops in Afghanistan. “To think this would happen in the course of a handful of hours would have been ludicrous.”

“We still have a long ways to go, but the commitment that the North Koreans made ? frankly, that Chairman Kim personally made to President Trump ? remains, has been reinforced,” said Pompeo later in a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday.

“Chairman Kim’s statement following our discussions, continued to express his desire to complete the denuclearization to which he is so committed.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]