Following their bilateral summit last week, Washington and Beijing have been pressing North Korea to refrain from any provocative actions.
After attacking ISIS militants in Afghanistan with a GBU-43 bomb, dubbed the "mother of all bombs," U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he does not know whether it sends a warning message to the North. However, he claimed that it is irrelevant and that the regime is a problem that will be “taken care of.”
Trump’s latest warnings against the North were echoed by Chinese state-run media outlets, which have been hitting its ally with unprecedentedly strong rhetoric, even mentioning the possibility it will cut crude oil supply to the regime.
During the first-ever bilateral meeting between Trump and President Xi Jinping in Florida, the two countries appeared to have reached little substantial consensus on the North Korean issue.
However, China and the US appear to be closer to reaching a common understanding since Trump called Xi on Tuesday to discuss the North Korean situation, only four days after they met in person.
The White House said the phone conversation was “very productive,” prompting speculation that the two leaders may have struck a deal in which Beijing promises to rein in the North’s nuclear program in return for Washington’s patience with its trade deficit.
Trump also reneged on his pledge to designate China as a currency manipulator, saying such a move could jeopardize his talks with Beijing on confronting the threat from the North.
On China’s part, the Global Times, a sister paper of the Communist Party’s official newspaper the People's Daily, said that China will help the North Korean regime’s pursuit of stability and economic development if the North gives up its nuclear program.
Some Chinese military experts are even asserting Pyongyang’s violation of the UN non-proliferation treaty is a good enough reason for Beijing to choose not to help if U.S. forces were to invade North Korea. Beijing was also reported to have ordered its trade firms to send back North Korean coal imports.
These moves by Washington and Beijing are being made in response to speculation that the North will attempt its sixth nuclear test or an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test this month to mark the birthday of North Korea’s late founder Kim Il-sung, which was yesterday, or the 85th anniversary of the creation of the North’s military on April 25th.
The U.S.-based North Korea-monitoring website, 38 North, said on Thursday that the North’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site appears to be on standby for conducting a nuclear test anytime.