The Yomiuri ShimbunTo diplomatically resolve the issue of North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, there is no other way but to impose complete sanctions so as to press the country into making policy changes. China limiting its crude oil supplies to North Korea is the most effective means to this end.
Following North Korea’s launch of a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile, which it claimed was “capable of striking anywhere in the mainland United States,” U.S. President Donald Trump spoke over the phone with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Trump told Xi that things had come to the point that China must cut off its oil to North Korea, calling on Beijing to stop oil supplies to Pyongyang. It is quite reasonable to recognize that the pressure China has been exerting on North Korea is insufficient, which has worsened the situation.
China supplies 500,000 tons of crude oil annually to North Korea, via a 30-kilometer-long underground pipeline that starts in Dandong in Liaoning Province, China. The crude oil is refined into jet fuel and the like, and is also used for military purposes.
The resolution that the U.N. Security Council adopted in September has imposed limits on refined petroleum products, including gasoline, going to North Korea. When it comes to crude oil exports to the country, however, the resolution merely capped the exports of it at the level of the last 12 months.
After China briefly shut the pipeline in 2003, North Korea returned to the negotiating table over the issue of its denuclearization. To put the brakes on Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development programs, it is indispensable that China steps into the “lifeline” of North Korea by reinforcing its own sanctions.
U.S. must sort out mess
North Korea ignored the proposal made jointly by China and Russia, which centered on ideas to simultaneously freeze North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, and U.S.-South Korean joint military drills. The special envoy sent by Xi failed to achieve results with his visit to North Korea.
China must face the reality that its reconciliation measures have been bogged down.
In the event of North Korea’s pushing ahead with another nuclear test or test-firing a ballistic missile in the months ahead, Japan, the United States and South Korea need to press China to make a firm decision to limit its crude oil supplies to North Korea.
The United States and South Korea began large-scale joint military drills, while fighter planes of the Air Self-Defense Force and U.S. forces also conducted a joint exercise over the Sea of Japan and in airspace around Okinawa Prefecture. It is important to strengthen deterrence by working to boost security cooperation among Japan, the United States and South Korea.
What is worrisome is that the United States has not been in a state of readiness for getting down to the task of conducting diplomacy with North Korea.
There is growing speculation that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will resign shortly. The rift between Tillerson, who is positive about starting a dialogue with North Korea, and Trump, who is negative about it, had earlier been brought to the fore. The absence of a U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs cannot be overlooked.
The presence of the U.S. State Department was inconspicuous also during Trump’s recent visits to Asian countries. The U.S. administration must unsnarl the confusion quickly and build a strategy on North Korea that effectively combines its foreign and military affairs.