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Trump gives up on Chinese help on reining in North Korea

“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out,” the US President tweeted.

world Updated: Jun 21, 2017 22:38 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
Donald Trump,US China relations,Xi Jinping
US President Donald Trump with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida on April 16. (Reuters File)

US President Donald Trump appears to have given up on his expectations that China will, at his urging, rein in its fully dependent ally North Korea after an American student released by Pyongyang recently died of injuries possibly suffered in captivity there.

Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old college student who had gone to North Korea as part of a tour, returned home last week with severe head injuries — “extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of his brain”, according to doctors. He died on Monday, triggering outrage against the Asian nation.

The American president had first condemned the “brutality” of the North Korean regime, and then followed it up with a more policy-oriented response in a tweet: “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!”

In an interview several months ago, Trump had said he would like China to use its “tremendous” clout on Pyongyang, a client state of sorts, to rein it in and its leader Kim Jong-un, who has been threatening to launch a nuclear attack on the US.

And in a tweet days after his meeting with President Xi Jinping in April, Trump had said, “I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the US will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem.’

But Trump had also said in his earlier interview that he was prepared for the United States to act alone if Beijing came up short.

It has now, according to him. He did not say what his plans are for North Korea now. His options include military action, travel restrictions, secondary sanctions and talks, which he has said he was prepared for if the conditions were right. But probably not now.

“Clearly, we’re moving further away, not closer, to those conditions being enacted,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Tuesday. “I would not suggest that we’re moving any closer.”

State department spokesperson Heather Nauert has said travel restrictions are on the table but a decision had not been taken yet.

Other administration officials have said they are considering secondary sanctions targeting Chinese banks and companies with ties to North Korea.

Defense secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are expected to raise Warmbier’s death and the related issues the US has with Pyongyang at their meeting with their Chinese counterparts in town for the annual diplomatic and security dialogue on Wednesday.

First Published: Jun 21, 2017 22:37 IST