US, China have big differences over North Korea, South China Sea

The US and China still have differences on ways to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, which would bring uncertainties to the bilateral relations after the two countries complete their 100-day action plan, according to a US expert.

Michael Jonathan Green, senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and chair in modern and contemporary Japanese politics and foreign policy at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, made the remarks during a recent interview with the, after the two countries wrapped up their first Diplomatic and Security Dialogue in Washington.

One of the big differences lies in the fact that the US wants China to put more pressure on North Korea to give up its missile and nuclear programs while China asks the US to drop its policy that has aggravated Pyongyang's hostility toward Washington, Green said, adding that the difference made it hard for the two countries to reach a consensus over the solution to the North Korean nuclear issue at the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue held on Wednesday.

A day before the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, US President Donald Trump expressed its dissatisfaction to China's efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambition in a tweet, which reads, "While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out." But after the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that China still has a crucial role to play in pressuring North Korea to stop its missile and nuclear programs. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis echoed that, saying that China "continues to work these issues."

The mixed messages show that there would still be a chance for the two countries to cooperate to resolve the North Korean issue, Green said. But he stressed that the US might impose stricter sanctions on North Korea when the 100-day action plan ends, if China fails to pressure its neighbor. The US sanctions may include punishing the Chinese companies who have business contact with North Korean entities, according to Green, adding that such punishment would increase uncertainties about the US-China relationship.

As for the South China Sea issue, Green described it as a complicated and hard-to-solve problem because the US and its allies including Japan and Australia consider China's land reclamation and construction activities on the islands it claims in the South China Sea as a violation of international law especially after a Hague-based tribunal rejected Beijing's claims in the waters last year. The expert predicted that the US will likely continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations to challenge China's moves in the South China Sea.

Although the US and China can not completely solve the issues of North Korea and the South China Sea through the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue, the two countries can use the dialogue to increase mutual trust and understanding, which is more efficient than the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue which covers too many things. And the establishment of the four dialogue mechanisms proposed by the presidents of two countries will bring more benefits to the bilateral relations.

Besides, Green said that the US also raised some requirements to China on anti-terrorism at the Diplomatic and Security Dialogue. But he said that it is wrong for Trump to make concessions on the issues of North Korea and the South China Sea in exchange for more Chinese efforts in combating the Islamic State. International affairs are not business, Green said.

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