U.S. Policy on North Korea ‘Not Working,’ Chinese Official Says

  • Munich forum sees rare public exchange of views on North
  • U.S. senator demands China exert more leverage over Pyongyang

The U.S. policy of maintaining sanctions and military pressure on North Korea while refusing to talk to the country isn’t working and will only make matters worse, a Chinese official said Saturday, venting Beijing’s impatience with the stalemate over its isolated neighbor.

“China just keeps on telling you this is not working, although we’re going along with you,” Fu Ying, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of China’s legislature and was a vice foreign minister until 2013, said at the Munich Security Conference. “You have to realize -- without talking with them, you will only drive them in the wrong direction further.”

Fu was flanked on stage by South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, in a rare public airing of differences between the U.S. and South Korea on the one side, and China on the other. President Donald Trump has repeatedly demanded China do more to rein in its neighbor and force it to abide by United Nations Security Council resolutions aimed at curbing the North’s nuclear ambitions.

Earlier Saturday, China’s Ministry of Commerce said it will halt coal imports from North Korea through the end of the year, stripping Kim Jong-un’s regime of a crucial source of income. No reason was given, although analysts pointed to the murder earlier this week of Kim’s older half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, at a Malaysian airport. He had lived outside North Korea for many years and had close links to China.

Read here for more on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Trump’s administration is pushing forward with plans to deploy a missile-defense system known as Thaad in South Korea. Concerns over North Korea’s intentions were only inflamed after the regime carried out a missile test on Feb. 12.

“There’s a number of people in the United States, myself included, who would encourage China, who has a lot of leverage over North Korea, to use that leverage in a more constructive way,” Sullivan said.

Yun, the South Korean foreign minister, rejected the idea of more talks any time soon.

“We are dealing with a country which has much more dangerous capacity than 10 years ago, 20 years ago,” he said. “Simply talking about dialogue, coming back to the conference table, means nothing.”

Whose Shoes?

In a speech to the Munich conference Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said negotiations with North Korea are the best opportunity for peace in the region.

Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, moderating Saturday’s panel, asked Fu to put herself in the shoes of a South Korean and discuss the threat of North Korea’s ambitions. She responded by saying everyone in the room should put themselves in a North Korean’s shoes.

“We need to ask why the North Koreans want to develop nuclear weapons -- they want to throw it to Alaska?” Fu said. “They know that they won’t stand the second strike.”

“That country is going to try by every means to find some kind of security and there’s no end to that problem,” she said.

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