The U.S. would oppose that because those are the sanctions aimed at exerting maximum pressure on Pyongyang to get rid of its nuclear arsenal. Still, a veto-laden impasse at the United Nations Security Council could open doors to more widespread sanctions-busting than is the case now, where the U.S. would have little leverage to intervene.
So, for all practical purposes, the North Korean problem will linger as a ticking time bomb until solutions can be found for security guarantees and an acceptable economic and political arrangement for the Korean Peninsula as a whole.
A large part of those solutions are in Beijing.
To unlock those solutions, the essential question for the U.S. is to find an acceptable modus vivendi — a sort of tolerable peaceful coexistence — with China. And it is important for Washington to understand that an openly hostile “strategic competition” is a logical opposite of that objective. Especially if that “competitor” is also branded a “revisionist power” keen on upending the American world order.
Looking at the existential economic issues of that relationship, it is enough to read the last Wednesday’s Congressional testimony of U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to understand that the U.S. and China are on a permanent collision course.
Seeking to balance its trade accounts and reduce China’s nearly half-a-trillion-dollar surplus on U.S. goods trade, Washington is hitting Beijing’s most sensitive red lines. Indeed, the U.S. is demanding enforceable structural reforms to put an end to intellectual property thefts and forced technology transfers. The U.S. also wants to eliminate China’s non-tariff barriers to trade, such as industrial subsidies, as well as regulations, licensing procedures, technical standards and other practices that discriminate against U.S. businesses and give an unfair advantage to their Chinese competitors.
China denies all that, but the U.S. insists on establishing review procedures with tariffs in case Beijing violates any of the trade rules and practices Washington sets.