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Nuclear North Korea
No Luck for Tillerson on North Korea

Rex Tillerson saved his most important Asian trip for last, arriving in China this weekend after tough talk on North Korea and promises to ratchet up the pressure on Beijing. As the Financial Times notes, however, the trip ended up on an anticlimactic note:

Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, wrapped up two days of meetings in Beijing on Sunday with little progress made in narrowing the two sides’ stark differences on the North Korean nuclear crisis.

But to Beijing’s relief just weeks ahead of the first meeting between the two countries’ presidents, Mr Tillerson also argued that differences on any one issue should not be allowed to derail the overall relationship.

“You said that China-US relations can only be friendly,” Chinese president Xi Jinping told the secretary of state, adding that “we are both expecting a new era for constructive development”. Mr Xi and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, are expected to meet early next month in Florida.

With nothing concrete to show for Tillerson’s first Chinese trip, the most noteworthy development may have been a rhetorical one. In describing the bilateral relationship, Tillerson notably used the preferred Chinese language of “mutual respect” and “win-win” cooperation: loaded phrases that some commentators considered a diplomatic give-away to Beijing, being as they were almost word-for-word reiterations of demands Xi made of Obama in 2013. Meanwhile, North Korea pointedly announced they had tested a rocket engine while Tillerson was engaged in talks about the nuclear crisis.

Tillerson is no doubt pressing the Chinese behind closed doors, and taking a harder stance privately than his public appearances suggest. But if the Secretary of State hoped to return home with a real and public Chinese concession, he left empty-handed. Barring a sudden breakthrough, the next best chance for diplomatic progress will be the Trump-Xi summit at Mar-a-Lago next month.

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  • KremlinKryptonite

    This is the first failure of consequence for the Trump administration. Not just the lack of concessions or, alternatively, sanctions on Chinese banks and companies supporting the Kim regime, but also the deafening silence on the CCP’s economic warfare against SK for trying to remedy a security dilemma the CCP helped to create for them.

    • Unelected Leader

      I unfortunately concur. Could it be that the Chinese attempts to bribe Trump with the nine year old trademark cases miraculously being settled In his favor and the $400 million deal with Kushners company are working?
      I voted Trump because I knew the Clintons were bought, but I had hoped Trump would have the good sense to take these bribes (why not) BUT THEN call them out for what they are. Are the Chinese “courts” going to rescind the decision? It would be even more absurd than the decision coming six weeks into trumps term.

    • Observe&Report

      The lack of concessions is hardly surprising considering that China views a nuclear-armed Kim regime as the least bad option. Otherwise, I’m inclined to agree that not uttering a word about Chinese bullying against South Korea looks weak. Hopefully, we’ll see meaningful sanctions against Chinese companies that trade with North Korea soon.

  • Kevin

    Why should we allow imports from a nation arming a genocidal enemy of ours?

  • Pait

    Tillerson may have been a little to fatigued to make any progress, but China has approved a new franchise of brothels for the personal enrichment of the president. Can’t beat that!

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