Despite President Trump canceling the highly anticipated summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week, the administration still left open the possibility for a meeting scheduled to take place next month – something one expert says the Hermit Kingdom desperately needs.
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“They need sanctions relief,” Gordon Chang, author of “Nuclear Showdown” told “Sunday Morning Futures.” “They certainly don’t want the United States to take out their nuke and their missile facilities. And Kim wants legitimization, of course – meeting President Trump – and also, he needs a counterweight to the Chinese.”
Trump called off the meeting – scheduled for June 12 – on Thursday, citing recent threats from the North Korean leader. The decision came on the same day as Pyongyang reportedly blowing up tunnels used for nuclear testing. Just hours before Trump canceled the summit, a North Korean official slammed Vice President Pence over comments he made earlier that week and threatened to withdraw from the meeting.
The author said the reason for North Korea’s aggressive statements stemmed from support it receives from China.
“I think the Chinese basically said [to North Korea], ‘look, pull back. You don’t have to deal with the Americans because we Chinese are gonna support your economy,’” Chang said, noting that prices of gas and diesel fuel declined sharply earlier this month in the northern part of North Korea. “The only reason that could’ve happened is because the Chinese are pumping much more oil through the Friendship Pipeline,” he added.
In recent months, however, Chang said China has blatantly busted U.N. sanctions by its dealings with North Korea, which include Beijing allowing North Korean workers back into the country, China’s investment in Pyongyang and President Xi Jinping providing gifts to Kim at the end of their summit in March.
“That’s a violation of U.N. sanctions,” he explained. “And the worst thing about this is not only that the Chinese violated the sanctions by giving all of those luxury items – they photographed it and they were saying, ‘look, we’re violating sanctions, U.S. Whatcha gonna do about it?’”
Still, the U.S. has strategies it can use against China to influence its relationship with North Korea, according to Chang.
“We hold all the high cards,” he said. “We can, for instance, declare four of the biggest Chinese banks to be primary money laundering concerns. It used to just be Bank of China. … We got ZTE, that Chinese embattled telecom manufacturer. It’s got a death sentence right now from the Trump administration and the Chinese need relief from that.”
In a Friday tweet, Trump said the U.S. would allow ZTE to reopen with “high level security guarantees, change of management and board,” and require the telecom giant to purchase U.S. parts and pay a $1.3 billion fine. The company suspended its main operations after the administration banned U.S. businesses from providing it with supplies.
“We need to show China that we have political will and that we will not allow them to mess with Iran sanctions, North Korea sanctions, you name it,” Chang said.