WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump appears to have given up on his expectations that China will rein in its fully dependent ally North Korea, after an American student released by Pyongyang recently died possibly of injuries sustained in captivity there.
Otto Warmbier, a college student who had gone to North Korea as part of a tour, returned home last week with severe head injuries and died on Monday.
Trump had first condemned the “brutality” of the North Korean regime, and followed it up with a more policy-oriented response in a tweet: “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!”
But, Trump had also said in his earlier interview that he was prepared for the US to act alone if Beijing came up short. It has now, according to him.
He did not say what his plans are for North Korea, but options include military action, travel restrictions, secondary sanctions and talks.
State department spokesperson Heather Nauert has said travel restrictions are on the table but a decision had not been taken yet.
Other administration officials have said they are considering secondary sanctions targeting Chinese banks and companies with ties to North Korea.
Defense secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are expected to raise Warmbier’s death and related issues at their meeting with their Chinese counterparts in town for the annual diplomatic and security dialogue.
For its part, China on Wednesday said it had made “unremitting” efforts to ease tensions. “Our contributions are recognised by all and our efforts are indispensable,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said.