Tillerson declared that, regarding North Korea, “all options are on the table”. The policy of strategic patience is over. “We are exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures”.
However, Tillerson yesterday held lengthy round of “frank and candid” talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Sino-US relations have been strained since president Donald Trump came to power, with the Chinese irritated by his tweets saying China was not doing enough to help resolve the North Korean crisis.
China has been North Korea’s biggest backer, but relations between the two countries have been strained as the North continues to pursue the development of nuclear weapons. Tourism, transport business and cultural exchanges between China and South Korea have all reportedly suffered since the spat.
Tillerson’s China visit is being seen as meant to lay groundwork for the upcoming summit.
While visiting Seoul and Tokyo, Tillerson said that the two decades of diplomatic efforts to disarm the North failed, and there was no point in pursuing the diplomatic path any longer. There has never been real control over nuclear material under North Korea’s domain since the state has never allowed inspections in its territory.
Such pleasantries did not prevent North Korea, whose main ally is China, from demonstrating that more than talk will be needed to change its nuclear ambitions. But Chinese official repeatedly say they do not have the influence over North Korea that Washington and others believe. But Beijing has refused to cripple the country’s economy out of fears of a refugee flood across the border and the loss of a buffer zone between South Korea and USA troops stationed there.
China has been particularly hostile to the U.S. decision to begin installing a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea.
The PRC began a campaign to militarize the highly disputed waters of the South China Sea when, in 2009, it submitted a new map to the United Nations showing the notorious “Nine-Dash Line”, which claims most islands in the region.
China has stridently opposed the deployment of a US missile defense system to South Korea, saying its X-band radar can peer deep into China to monitor flights and rocket launches.
State news agency KCNA said the North’s leader supervised the test of the rocket engine. Washington is reportedly weighing a pre-emptive strike as an option. Without nukes in the North, the South would have no reason to host the system. North Korea’s mid-range missiles aimed eastward have mostly fallen into the Sea of Japan, and one long-range missile aimed southward fell in the Pacific near the Philippines’ Batanes Island. Fisher concludes that any of these plans would result in retaliation by North Korea that could result in mass deaths.
However, tensions eased last month when Mr Trump reaffirmed the United States commitment to the One China policy, which sees the USA seek ties with China rather than the island of Taiwan, in a phone call with Mr Xi, the first since he took office. Fisher concludes with a quote from North Korean analyst Jeffrey Lewis.
Speaking from Beijing, Victor Gao, director of the China National Association of International Studies, said: “US-China trade right now is worth nearly $600bn and it is a fact that China has a huge surplus in the trade with the US. Although we haven’t taken the military option off the table, it doesn’t sound like it is the preferred option”, Gause said.
According to a Voice of America report, 10 North Korean ships entered the port of Longkou in China’s eastern Shandong province Thursday after having stayed in global waters for the past three weeks.