August 10, 2017 | Quoted by Uri Friedman - The Atlantic
Why China Isn’t Doing More to Stop North Korea
The leaders of North Korea’s greatest adversary and greatest ally agree: It’s bad that North Korea has nuclear weapons, and it would be better if they gave them up. So why do the United States and China keep butting heads over North Korea, as Kim Jong Un fine-tunes his nuclear arsenal?
The latest effort to counter North Korea’s nuclear program—UN Security Council sanctions on several North Korean exports, orchestrated by American and Chinese negotiators—appears to indicate that the United States and China are finally joining forces to crush Kim’s nuclear ambitions. Yet the unity of purpose fades upon closer inspection. U.S. officials have questioned whether the Chinese government will enforce the sanctions, as the Trump administration considersways to retaliate if Beijing fails to get tougher on its ally in Pyongyang. Donald Trump has boasted that the Security Council sanctions will have a “very big financial impact” on the North Korean economy, but the Chinese likely prevented the impact from being even bigger; the UN measures, for instance, notably do not restrict China and other countries from exporting oil to North Korea.
The main form of pressure under discussion is economic. Trump’s Treasury Department recently imposed sanctions on a Chinese bank for allegedly laundering money for North Korea, and the administration is mulling further “secondary sanctions” on Chinese companies that do business with the North Korean government. It has also floated a range of punitive trade policies, from a tariff on steel imports to retaliation against Chinese intellectual-property violations. U.S. officials have long avoided such actions out of concern that punishing China would make it less cooperative, not more, on North Korea. But Anthony Ruggiero, a sanctions expert and former Treasury Department official, argues that this analysis misses the way that targeted financial measures work. Beyond drying up funding for North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program, he has written, economic penalties could, for instance, “drive a wedge between Chinese banks that covet their access to the U.S. financial system and Chinese leaders who indulge North Korea. If the banks fear they will be the next target of U.S. sanctions, they will pressure political leaders to change course.” (There’s recent precedent for this: The U.S. sanctions campaign to contain the Iranian nuclear program coerced China into reducing its trade and financial ties with Iran.)
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