The China syndrome

President Trump’s address to the General Assembly of the United Nations earlier this week appears to have been calculated in part to “unsettle China” sufficiently to clamp down on Rocket Man. I think it’s gonna be a long, long time, but maybe President Trump was on to something. At today’s Washington Times, Dave Boyer and S.A. Miller report:

President Trump persuaded China to freeze all financial transactions with North Korea and ordered a new round of U.S. sanctions Thursday, closing out his first U.N. General Assembly with a major diplomatic victory in his efforts to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programs short of war.

In a carefully choreographed strategy deployed from the shadow of the United Nations headquarters in New York, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin called the head of China’s central bank very early Thursday to alert him that Mr. Trump was preparing an executive order to sanction any financial institutions doing business with North Korea. He asked for the cooperation of China, the main source of North Korea’s cash.

Hours later, the People’s Bank of China announced it was directing all other banks in China to halt financial transactions with North Korea.

Soon afterward, Mr. Trump signed an executive order in a meeting with the presidents of South Korea and Japan, expanding the Treasury Department’s ability to freeze the assets of banks or individuals doing business with Pyongyang. Mr. Trump praised China’s action, saying with uncharacteristic understatement that it was “somewhat unexpected.”

The White House has posted the executive order online here.

Seeing President Trump in the White House on April 24 at his 100-day event for conservative media, I was most struck by his account of his then recent meeting with China’s President Xi. Readers may recall that my notes of President Trump’s remarks are a highly sought-after commodity.

In his remarks Trump mentioned that the talked to President Xi for an hour the evening before. He said that he had spoken at length to Xi about the problem of North Korea. He expressed confidence that Xi would be helpful on this front and that he (President Trump) was relenting on the issue of currency manipulation (which had already improved) while he sought Xi’s help. North Korea was clearly weighing on Trump’s mind; he has enlisted Xi’s support and believed that Xi is helping him.

I think that Xi has proved a disappointment to President Trump, as he has to previous administrations seeking help on North Korea. President Trump deserves credit for doing something about it in relatively short order.

Rocket Man, however, seeks to heighten the contradictions. Today’s news brings word that North Korea’s foreign minister says the regime could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean in response to President Trump’s UN speech threatening the destruction of North Korea if forced to defend the United States or its allies. Developing…

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