LAWSON: Cooperation with China against North Korea is critical

U.S. should coordinate aggressive sanctions with China against North Korea


The United States should enforce fully the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act and encourage other nations to do the same.

In a controversial tweet on March 17, President Donald Trump made a declaration of his views towards North Korea, accusing the totalitarian state of “behaving very badly” and “playing” the United States. His administration has seemingly aligned itself with this impression. Trump also condemned China’s poor cooperation in the second half of his tweet, when he proclaimed: “China has done little to help!” Unpolished accusations aside, China has done little to hinder North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal, and their trade with the rogue nation actually bolsters a regime notorious for human rights violations. To respond to these continued offenses, the Trump administration should adopt a more aggressive policy toward North Korea and increase pressure on China to do the same.

The need for a firmer stance on North Korea arises in light of the failure of former President Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience,” under which Kim Jong-un’s nuclear arsenal proliferated significantly. The country claims to have carried out five successful nuclear tests — in 2006, 2009, 2013 and two in 2016. Earlier this month, North Korea fired four ballistic missiles at Japan, which fell just short of the country. This past Wednesday, North Korea launched a test missile off of its east coast to boast its military strength. Although the test reportedly failed, it made Kim Jong-un’s intentions abundantly clear — to transform North Korea into a formidable nuclear power and target the United States and its allies in the East.

Because China constitutes the plurality of both imports to and exports from North Korea, it must also play a major role in thwarting the regime’s nuclear progress through increased economic sanctions. North Korea’s neighbor to the West currently accounts for 70 percent of its total trade and this percentage has not decreased since the United Nations mandated international sanctions on North Korea. Many worry that Beijing is purposefully failing to enforce the sanctions in order to act as the continued sponsor of North Korea.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of China’s economic support for North Korea is their sponsorship of a regime with a startlingly bad record of human rights violations. The nation is unitarily controlled by the Kim dictatorship, which deprives its citizens of education, food, shelter, legal rights and even freedom of thought. In a country where public executions, torture and mass imprisonment are unchecked, people are desperate to escape.

China serves as the main route for North Korean refugees escape to freedom, but the Chinese government is far from accommodating. If escapees are discovered by Chinese officials, they are deported back to North Korea to be incarcerated and sometimes executed. Even if refugees evade Chinese authorities, their journey to freedom is still highly treacherous. According to Yeonmi Park — who fled North Korea in 2007 — 300,000 North Korean refugees are vulnerable in China, particularly women — 70 percent of whom are victimized and sometimes sold into sex slavery. Instead of capturing and deporting refugees, China should attempt to thwart North Korea’s human rights violations by aiding their escape.

Without China’s staunch defense of the otherwise-isolated nation, Kim Jong-un’s regime would deteriorate. The United States should enforce fully the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act — a mandatory sanction against North Korea — and encourage other nations to do the same. In particular, the Trump administration should ensure that China follows their UN-mandated sanctions. Additionally, the United States should continue to display force in the region through military tests to show its total diplomatic support for Japan and South Korea, while warning North Korea and China. One essential way to show force is through the installment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense in South Korea to counter North Korean missiles aimed at South Korea, Japan and U.S. military bases in the Pacific, despite Chinese protests.

The existence of the Kim family’s harsh totalitarian regime in the global sphere sends a frightening message to the rest of the modern world. Rather than blindly accepting this reality and trying to “wait it out,” the new administration should begin to mitigate the threat where its power is derived — Pyongyang's relationship with China. By adopting an active hardline policy toward North Korea and pressuring China to act in accordance with it, the United States has a better chance at countering one of its most vile opponents.

Charlotte Lawson is a viewpoint writer for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at

related stories