President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to give up on the notion that China might be able to pressure North Korea into behaving better on the world stage, writing online that efforts to that effect have “not worked out” even though “China tried!”
“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!” Trump wrote on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.
The issue of what to do about North Korea’s isolated, belligerent and repressive government has resurfaced in recent days with the death of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in January 2016 over accusations he had attempted to remove a propaganda poster.
Warmbier was released last week by North Korea and was in a coma when he arrived back in the United States, unable to speak, see or respond to verbal commands. On Tuesday, Trump told reporters that “it’s a total disgrace what happened to Otto” and suggested that he might still be alive had he been brought home earlier.
North Korea had previously earned the attention of Trump with its typical campaign of bellicose rhetoric and missile launches in the spring, a pattern that matches North Korea’s usual practice of ramping up such activity around the birthday of its founder, Kim Il Sung.
Trump had suggested that he would rely on China, North Korea’s principle international partner, to pressure the North Korean regime into curbing its long-held nuclear ambitions and tamping down its rhetoric. That plan, Trump said Tuesday, had failed.
The president has previously insisted that China, as North Korea’s principle benefactor, could “solve the North Korean problem” if it wanted to. Trump, who deployed a U.S. aircraft carrier and its accompanying battle group to the waters off the Korean Peninsula in April, told the Financial Times earlier that month that the U.S. would deal with North Korea with or without China’s help.
“Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you,” he said.