After a Chinese envoy arrived in South Korea, the two sides have agreed to take “strong action” against North Korea if the North continues to test nuclear and ballistic missiles, according toVOA News.
Joel Witt, the cofounder of 38 North, a website that brings together experts on North Korea, told Business Insider that the country’s progress in developing nuclear and ballistic missiles had appeared to rapidly increase over the past year.
With each test, North Korea gets closer to its goal of creating an intercontinental ballistic missile that could threaten the US mainland. US President Donald Trump’s administration has been clear it is open to taking military action to try to prevent this.
Trump, in an interview with the Financial Times before his meeting last week with Chinese President Xi Jinping, said “if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.”
It remains to be seen whether South Korea and China’s vision of unacceptable behavior matches the US’s, as the US has signaled growing impatience with the North’s nuclear posturing.
Now, with the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and strike group redirected to the Korean Peninsula, South Korea and Chinese diplomats seem to have struck an agreement on handling the North Korean missile threat that does not involve a US strike.
North Korea called the Vinson’s deployment an “outrageous act” and said it was “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US.”
While the US certainly sent a message with a recent salvo of 59 cruise missiles directed at a Syrian air base, it faces far more limited options in striking North Korea, which has an array of missile launchers and artillery that could effectively level Seoul, South Korea’s capital of 10 million people.
Experts have told Business Insider that while China disapproves of North Korea’s nuclear threats, it has a much deeper interest in preserving a North Korean state as a buffer against Western influences, fearing a strong, united Korea complete with democracy and US military installations.
Furthermore, the Chinese appear to have been spooked by a recent deployment of advanced missile defenses to South Korea, which the US put in place after a particularly provocative missile test from the North.
Trump reportedly discussed the north Korean issue with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday, with the two reaffirming their commitment to denuclearizing the peninsula and adhering to all UN sanctions against the Hermit Kingdom.