The Biden administration is looking to strengthen strained ties between Washington and Beijing in recent talks to address North Korea’s weapons program.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with his counterpart, Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi this week for over four hours. The meeting centered around the United States’ concerns about China’s recent veto of a United Nations resolution.
The resolution was related to the possibility of North Korea engaging in a nuclear weapons test. Although the country has recently tested weapons platforms, such as an intercontinental ballistic missile, it has not exploded a nuclear device since 2017.
Kim defended his country’s military arms expansion at a recent three-day party conference. Although he did not reference the United States directly, he argued against the interference of foreign nations in North Korea’s sovereign right to arm and defend itself.
China has long used North Korea as a foil in international dealings with the United States. It has been a theory at the State Department that China instructs North Korea to take an action that is disruptive to the international rules-based order, and then the China Communist Party (CCP) uses the crisis to negotiate with the United States. The CCP agrees to rein in Kim, but usually for a price, typically something the U.S. has been hesitant to pay previously.
North Korea has been relatively quiet over the past 18 months as it has been dealing with a COVID outbreak among its population. Now that the pandemic is receding, Kim is trying to reassert his country’s relevance with his saber-rattling. It is unknown if it is at China’s direction or not, but the situation is of clear concern to Washington.
Sullivan did use the talks to discuss other areas of concern, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Washington’s general strategy in the region. The talks came on the heels of public statements by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin saying that China poses a clear strategic threat to the U.S. and poses the most serious threat to the international order. Future talks have been agreed to, but there have been no specific dates set.