Tabnak – In a rare case of unanimity on North Korea, China and Russia joined the other UNSC members to impose stricter sanctions against Pyongyang. However, concerned over its longer term strategic interests, Beijing is still trying to find a negotiation-based way out of the current North Korean crisis.
The United Nations Security Council unanimously voted on Saturday in favor of a US-drafted resolution significantly bolstering its anti-North Korea sanctions. The fresh sanctions include an export ban on the North that could curb its annual revenue by some $1 billion.
The sanction blocks all exports of coal, iron and iron ore, lead and lead ore, as well as fish and seafood from the country over its recent missile tests. It also blocks North Korea from increasing the number of workers it sends abroad, and prevents new joint ventures with Pyongyang or increasing investments in current ventures.
One of the most important parts of the story however was China’s stance on the issue. According to Reuters, China's foreign minister said on Sunday that new UN Security Council sanctions on North Korea were the right response to a series of missile tests. Nonetheless, he reiterated that dialogue was vital to resolve a complex and sensitive issue now at a "critical juncture".
Wang Yi, in what he described as "very thorough" bilateral talks on Sunday with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho at a regional meeting in Manila, said he had told him that North Korea should not carry out nuclear tests which would only stoke tensions and calmly assess the UN resolutions.
At the same time, he warned against any move which could further escalate the crisis, urging diplomatic and peaceful means to avoid tensions. He called on all parties involved to seriously consider China's dual suspension proposal, whereby North Korea halts its nuclear and missile tests and for South Korea and the United States to stop joint military drills.
"This is currently the most realistic and plausible initiative and it is the most reasonable and friendly solution," he said. However, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley ruled that out on Saturday, saying Washington would continue to take "prudent defensive measures," including joint military drills with South Korea.
It should be noted that US President Donald Trump has been pressuring Beijing to act against Pyongyang, calling past American leaders "foolish" who had allegedly allowed China to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade and yet do nothing for the US with North Korea.
At the same time, Trump isn’t ruling out a "preventive war” to stop North Korea from being able to threaten the US, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said in an interview with MSNBC done earlier in the week and broadcast on Saturday. The danger posed by North Korea was "a grave threat,” he said.
Many Asian countries fear the Trump administration's growing anxiety and anger over North Korea's missile tests risk escalating into a dangerous confrontation; there is still a broad consensus in this region that engagement, however frustrating, is the only way forward - so for example the US bid to have North Korea expelled from the Asean Regional Forum will meet plenty of resistance.
Beijing itself is also furious about the deployment of a US-funded missile defense system in South Korea and wants it to be scrapped.