On Jan. 2, then President-elect Donald Trump tweeted a promise that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would not be allowed to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile armed with a nuclear bomb. In a second tweet, Trump complained that China “won’t help with North Korea.”
On Feb. 12, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) once again tested a ballistic missile. While Trump’s Twitter feed had no immediate response, the North Korean move will undoubtedly lead to an even greater sense of urgency in Washington — and more demands on Beijing to help rein in the North Korean nuclear threat.
Persuading the Chinese to inflict major costs on North Korea will prove to be one of the most difficult tasks of the new administration. Trump has suggested he “would get China to make [Kim] disappear in one form or another very quickly,” while a Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force believes “China can help get North Korea back to the negotiating table by withdrawing material support, enforcing sanctions, and applying diplomatic pressure.” Securing Chinese help would require a difficult mix of persuasion, pressure, and concessions.