In the wake of North Korea’s most dangerous nuclear test to date, Washington is pressing Beijing to shut down the so-called Friendship Pipeline that transports valuable petroleum from China to North Korea. The U.S. demanded other oil embargos on the rogue states in the past, but the Chinese have nearly always refused.
This is the first time a U.S. administration is so explicit about cutting off the fuel to the North, urging China to take military action if necessary. The request puts Beijing in a tight spot.
China’s President Xi Jinping is expected to discuss the issue during a conference with Communist Party leaders in October. He doesn’t want a destabilizing war at his country’s southern border and doesn’t want to look like the U.S.’ lap dog either.
“Xi cannot afford to look like he is caving in under U.S. pressure,” said international affairs expert Zhang Baohui.
Xi will likely want something in return from the U.S. to make him look less weak in the eyes of his party. He is also unlikely to put his geopolitical interests at risk just because Washington says so.
Suspending the North’s Nuclear Program Will Come at a Price
The Chinese leader may agree to a fuel cutoff if the Trump administration agrees to freeze its military drills in South Korea in exchange for putting the North’s nuclear ambitions on hold.
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and the Pentagon are pushing for a diplomatic solution, but Trump thinks negotiations with North Korea are not the answer.
“Talking is not the answer,” Trump recently tweeted.
Earlier this week, the North Koreans suggested that there may be other missile tests on the way. One diplomat hinted at more “gift packages” for America after he told the United Nations that sanctions and pressures wouldn’t intimidate his country.
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