With Pyongyang showing no signs of slowing down its provocative testing of missiles, US president Donald Trump vented his frustration, accusing China of not following up on its assurances with actions to rein in North Korea, according to reports.
“I am very disappointed in China,” the president tweeted on Saturday, “Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk.”
“We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”
Trump had sought Beijing’s help to force North Korea to comply with a US-mandated prohibition against it testing missiles and advancing its nuclear weapons programme, using its leverage as Pyongyang’s largest trading partner and patron. At one stage, he seemed satisfied China had done its bit, even if it did not yield the desired result.
But the US president seems to have evolved since, and feels let down clearly. He threatened to put an end to Chinese prevarications on trade, but did not spell it out clearly, and he White House had not followed up on that tweet with specific details of any follow-up action.
The immediate cause of Trump’s irritation was North Korea on Friday successfully testing an intercontinental ballistic missile that, according to defence experts, can reach the US mainland. This was a second test of an intercontinental missile by North Korea, and both in July.
The missile stayed in air for 47 minutes, and went 2,300 miles high over 621 miles. Taking a flatter trajectory, it could potentially reach Los Angeles and Chicago, according to experts.
In a statement issued by the White House hours after the test on Friday, Trump had called it the “latest reckless and dangerous action” by North Korea, but had not blamed China for not doing enough.
Secretary of state Rex Tillerson, however, had held not only China but also Russia responsible. “As the principal economic enablers of North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development programme, China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability,” he had said in a statement.
While Beijing condemned the test and said it “opposes North Korea’s violations” of UN resolutions, it did not respond to Tillerson’s finger-pointing.
Earlier this month, it was less diplomatic. “Recently, certain people, talking about the Korean peninsula nuclear issue, have been exaggerating and giving prominence to the so-called ‘China responsibility theory,” Geng Shuang, a foreign ministry spokesman had said in Beijing. “I think this either shows lack of a full, correct knowledge of the issue, or there are ulterior motives for it, trying to shift responsibility.”