The Trump administration has asked China to act against several Chinese entities suspected of doing illicit business with North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday.
North Korean ally China is the “capstone” of an international pressure campaign to hold North Korea to account for rogue missile and nuclear development, Tillerson said during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
But Tillerson was explicit that Washington also believes that Chinese businesses and individuals are helping North Korea evade a yoke of international sanctions.
“Our expectations have been very clear with the Chinese. Their cooperation, I would say, has been notable, but it has been uneven,” Tillerson said.
“We continue that dialogue with the Chinese, specifically around their actions that support revenue streams to North Korea, but also taking action against entities inside of China that may be supporting revenue streams as well,” Tillerson said.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the Trump administration has given China a list of about 10 such suspect entities and has demanded action.
Tillerson appeared to confirm that report and added that Chinese compliance would be a central topic during meetings he will have with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and their Chinese counterparts next week in Washington.
“We have made it clear to them, and we have provided them a list of entities that we believe they need to take action against,” Tillerson said.
“We have asked that they take the action, but President Trump has also been very clear with President Xi that if they either don’t want to take the action or they do not take the action, we will act on our own.”
Later, in testimony to a panel of the House Appropriations Committee, Tillerson said the United States assesses that China’s complicated relationship with North Korea is changing and that China increasingly sees Pyongyang as a liability.
The combination of North Korean advances in nuclear weapons and long-range missiles means that “there’s no runway left,” for lengthy or ineffective diplomacy, Tillerson said.
“We have to reverse what North Korea is doing,” and China understands the imperative, he said.
“They have affirmed their policy is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” Tillerson said.
Chinese diplomats recently worked alongside the United States to approve additional new United Nations Security Council sanctions. Although mild, those penalties served as a warning that Chinese patience is thinning.
“There is a critical window of opportunity for the nuclear issue of the [Korean] Peninsula to come back to the right track of seeking a settlement through dialogue and negotiations,” China’s U.N. ambassador, Liu Jieyi, told the Security Council, according to Reuters.
“It is incumbent on all parties concerned to exercise restraint and to do more to help ease the tension and build mutual trust.”