On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump once again took to Twitter to make a stunning announcement that collaborating with China on improving the dangerous situation in North Korea has “not worked out.”
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 20, 2017
That tweet came only two hours after another Trump tweet in which the president condemned the “brutality of the North Korean regime” following the death of Otto Warmbier.
Warmbier, a 22-year-old American college student, had been serving a 15-year sentence for having allegedly stolen a propaganda poster from a North Korean hotel in 2016. Last week, North Korean officials allowed Warmbier, who was in a coma, to be taken back to the US. Despite receiving extensive medical attention, Warmbier passed away on Monday.
Warmbier’s death, paired with continued North Korean missile tests in recent months, has significantly increased tensions yet again between Washington and Pyongyang. During his first few months in office, Trump has attempted to work with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discourage North Korea’s development of its nuclear program, even going so far as to cease his China-bashing ways.
China is North Korea’s only ally and the “Hermit Kingdom” relies heavily on trade relations with its giant neighbor to stay afloat, giving Beijing some leverage in negotiating diplomatic policy. During his campaign, Trump claimed that China could easily make Kim Jong-un “disappear,” but after receiving a 10-minute history lesson from Xi in April realized that “it’s not so easy.”
Incredible statement, considering Trump's whole North Korea policy during the campaign was: a strong POTUS could make China fix it fast https://t.co/nL46I3IsnD
— Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) June 20, 2017
However, Trump’s latest tweet appears to possibly spell the end for this China-aided approach, while bringing into question what course of action the US will take next to combat the threat of North Korea. Though, as usual, the president’s tweets appear to completely contradict statements made by his spokesman. On the day before Trump picked up his smartphone, US press secretary Sean Spicer announced that the White House believed that China had made “positive movement” towards dispelling North Korea’s anti-American antics.
No matter the official stance of the US, China seems disinterested in interfering too much in the trans-Pacific conflict. Yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang called Warmbier’s death an “unfortunate thing,” simply adding that “we hope that North Korea and the US can handle it appropriately.”
Such sentiments are reflected in the conclusions drawn by scholars keeping a close eye on Chinese international relations. According to the AFP, Shi Yuanhua, director of the Center for Korean Studies at Fudan University, said that “most likely, China will express concern and regret over the case,” but added that “it’s really misconstrued that China is responsible for everything that happens between Washington and Pyongyang.”
On Wednesday, Chinese and American officials are scheduled to meet to discuss relations with North Korea, among other issues. While it is not clear exactly what will be the result of these conversations, we can likely expect more Twitter updates about the situation in the near future.
By Emma Abrams