President Trump tweeted on Saturday that he is "disappointed" in China for not doing more to curb North Korea's missile program, just a day after the country test launched a second intercontinental ballistic missile that experts fear could be capable of reaching the mainland United States.
Trump griped about past administrations' failures to convince China to sway its neighbor to abandon its militaristic ambitions by severing a debilitating amount of economic ties.
"I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk," Trump said.
Trump has repeatedly pressured China to do more to stymie North Korean aggression, but has also repeatedly acknowledged that China's efforts have been insufficient thus far. His tweets Saturday echo the words of his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who on Friday said both China and Russia are "principal economic enablers of North Korea's nuclear weapon and ballistic missile development program."
"China and Russia bear unique and special responsibility for this growing threat to regional and global stability," Tillerson added.
Though China has imposed new sanctions on North Korea's coal industry, it lessened the impact of those actions through other trade deals. The U.S. has expressed optimism that China will impose news United Nations sanctions on North Korea, but U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley expressed concern about Russia.
"The true test will be what (the Chinese) have worked out with Russia (and whether) Russia comes and tries to pull out of that," Haley said last week, according to Reuters.
Trump hinted in his tweets that he expects the China question not to be an issue for much longer. "We will no longer allow this to continue," he said, without further description. However, he may have been referring to the fact that U.S. lawmakers have approved legislation that would slap new sanctions on North Korea, as well as Russia and Iran. The White House has indicated that Trump will sign the bill.
Trump also added, "China could easily solve this problem!"
Pushing back on Trump's seemingly simple solution to the North Korea problem was former Obama deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes. "It is not at all true that China can easily solve this problem and this is a very dangerous and destabilizing approach," he tweeted Saturday in response to Trump.
After the test launch of his country's second intercontinental ballistic missile in a month's time, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un bragged that "the entire U.S. territory is within our shooting range."
Tillerson said on Friday that the United States "will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea nor abandon our commitment to our allies and partners in the region."
In the meantime, South Korea announced on Saturday that it wants more powerful ballistic missiles in response to North Korean aggression, the New York Times reported.