Contrasting forces in dealing with North Korea

Politics

Top politics and current affairs news for February 21, 2017. Part of the daily SupChina news roundup "5 million yuan rewards for informants in Xinjiang."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying speaks during a briefing at the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing, China, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea’s claim to have conducted its first hydrogen bomb test acts is seen by key ally China as yet another act of defiance, raising the likelihood that Beijing will endorse new United Nations sanctions and possibly enforce unilateral trade restrictions. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

  • Is China pushing Trump to talk to North Korea? / NYT (paywall)
    Tensions heightened in the difficult relationship between China, North Korea, and the U.S., with the assassination of Kim Jong-un’s half brother in Malaysia and the confirmation by China’s Ministry of Commerce on Saturday that it would soon cease coal imports from the rogue nation. The New York Times noted the contrasting pulls of these two events, as China likely views its compliance with sanctions as a large concession to the U.S. to get U.S.-North Korea dialogue kickstarted. Yet news of the assassination means that even informal talks with North Korea at this time could be seen as rewarding bad behavior. All steps at this point would be incremental, however, as North Korea has refused more than 50 times to attend any dialogue that has denuclearization on the agenda, while Bloomberg reports that the fuel and commodity exports of China to North Korea are a much stronger lifeline than coal imports.
  • China jails former head of safety watchdog for 15 years for graft / Reuters
    Yang Dongliang 杨栋梁 was the head of the State Administration of Work Safety when a massive industrial explosion in 2015 in the northeastern port city of Tianjin killed 170 people. He was sacked days later, and it was revealed that the company at the site of the explosion had no license for storing or handling the dangerous materials that blew up. Though state media reports on this 15-year sentence did not mention the 2015 Tianjin explosions, he was convicted of “accepting bribes to grant contracts to companies,” including during an earlier time when he was vice mayor of Tianjin.