On Thursday, the Trump administration approved a $1.4 billion military arms sale to Taiwan and also blacklisted a small Chinese bank for illicit dealings with North Korea.
Trump hosted the Chinese president Xi Jinping at his Florida resort in April, where the two had a friendly and productive meeting. After the meeting, it seemed hopeful that China, North Korea’s only major ally, would assist to get North Korea in line.
But last week, Trump tweeted that so far it “has not worked out.”
“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” tweeted Trump.
The U.S. has insisted the recent moves by the government weren’t in efforts to punish China.
“We are in no way targeting China with these actions,” said Steve Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury Secretary in response to the sanctions on the Chinese Bank of Dandong.
However, several sources are saying this shows that the Trump administration is losing faith in China.
“Both moves show the Trump administration coming to terms with the challenges of getting China to tighten the screws on its client state North Korea, where the regime of Kim Jong Un depends on Beijing as its lifeline,” writes The Washington Post.
The Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang expressed disappointment in the recent actions against China.
“[The] U.S. wrong moves go against the consensus achieved at Mar-a-Lago,” said Kang. “We hope that the US administration can correct their wrongdoings so the US-China relations can go back to the correct track of sound and steady development, so that our important cooperation in other fields will not be affected negatively.”
Japan, on the other hand, applauded the Trump administration’s decision to cut off the bank.
“Cooperating with the United States and other nations, we will continue to make efforts to solve issues over North Korea,” said Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
The recent military arms sale to Taiwan shows that the U.S. government may be slowly trying to rebuild that relationship.
“When the United States opened diplomatic relations with China in 1979, it broke off formal ties with Taiwan. Under the one-China policy, Washington acknowledges China’s position that there is only one Chinese government but does not endorse it, and maintains “robust unofficial” relations with Taiwan,” writes The Washington Post. “Not long after the U.S. presidential election, Trump surprised many, including China, by taking a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and later suggesting, on Twitter, that he might change the U.S. position on Taiwan. Then he changed course, moving to reassure Beijing.”
Some see both of these moves as Trump’s way to put more pressure on China.
“It looks like definitely the honeymoon, which was caused by Beijing’s promises to do something on North Korea, has ended,” said Willy Lam, a politics expert at the Chinese University of Hong Kong to AFP. “I think this is Trump playing the Taiwan card to put pressure on China to do more on North Korea and maybe also on the trade front.”
Author’s note: This is likely a strategic move by Trump. It’s time for China to step up and apply more pressure to North Korea.