The U.S. has been pushing for stronger sanctions since North Korea's most recent ICBM test. It has been reported that President Donald Trump has requested that President Xi Jinping cease China’s oil supply to North Korea. According to a statement disclosed during the emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council by Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., President Trump believes “China can do this on its own, or we can take the oil situation into our own hands.”
It is without question that stopping the oil supply from going to North Korea will hurt the regime. However, it is unrealistic to hope that China and Russia will meet the demands set by America. They just simply have different strategic interests. Not to mention that the effects of the oil stoppage will be borne by North Korean citizens, not their leadership. Furthermore, it is even more difficult to imagine that Kim Jong Un’s regime would give in and abandon its nuclear weapons. The cessation of the oil supply cannot be the "be-all-end-all" solution; in fact, there is a higher probability that it will make the situation worse.
Ambassador Haley noted, "The dictator of North Korea made a decision yesterday that brings us closer to war." Undoubtedly, such rhetoric was meant to issue a stern warning; however, the frequent usage of the word "war" is getting worrisome. War cannot happen again on the Korean peninsula. Under no circumstances will a war be justified.
President Trump, during his meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, said, "ICBMs cannot be allowed. To protect Washington, New York, and Los Angeles, any and every measure must be taken,” as reported by Yomiuri Shimbun on Nov. 30.* There have been reports of concerns from the Abe administration about America's possible attempt at preemptive strikes at North Korea due to the apprehension that if a war happens, Japan will also become a target of North Korea's retaliation. If Japan is this concerned, it is a moot point to state how gravely South Korea is worried. Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, makes a point worth hearing: “What’s needed is a serious diplomatic effort to freeze weapons testing … The Trump administration should make clear what it is willing to offer in exchange for such a freeze, whether sanctions relief, a formal end to the state of war or an adjustment to U.S.-South Korean military exercises."
Despite the situation deteriorating to this point, America blames China for not fully getting on board with the sanctions, while China criticizes America for not engaging in a meaningful dialogue with Pyongyang. And yet, despite getting nowhere, America continues its demand that China end the oil supply to North Korea, and China continues to demand “dual suspension,” i.e., suspension of the joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises and suspension of the North Korean nuclear program at the same time. This will not do.
First, America needs to lower the prerequisites of dialogue for North Korea. The Trump administration needs to take heed of criticism that it has never attempted to have a conversation with North Korea. China needs to answer to the international call demanding it become more involved with the North Korean issue. In the current state of this blame game, America and China will get nothing done.
*Editor’s note: The original quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.