March 26, 2017

China Won’t Fix North Korea—Focus on These Four Areas Instead

By Jacob Stokes and Alexander Sullivan

Kim Jong Un’s North Korea continues to make one provocative move after another: It keeps firing off missiles and detonating nuclear devices and recently used chemical weapons to assassinate Kim’s exiled half-brother in the Kuala Lumpur airport. The pace and scope of developments has generated a growing consensus among national security leaders that the situation is deteriorating quickly and something needs to change. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s recent trip to Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), and China focused on the challenge emanating from North Korea. And the topic will no doubt be high on the list for President Donald Trump’s potential meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping early next month.

However, most of the options analysts and policymakers propose rely on an old assumption: The best way to influence Pyongyang is via a geopolitical bank-shot through Beijing. President Trump expressed this view very clearly on the campaign trail when he promised to tell China’s leadership that “this [North Korea] is your baby. This is your problem. You solve the problem, because China can solve that problem.” Since the election Trump has lamented that China “won't help with North Korea,” suggesting again that Beijing should be expected to rein in Pyongyang. He doubled down earlier this month as Tillerson prepared to meet with Chinese counterparts and lobbed the accusation that “China has done little to help” control Pyongyang. The Bloomberg editorial board also recently opined that it is “China’s turn to deal with North Korea.”

Read the full article from Lawfare.

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