On September 18, Chinese President Xi Jinping and the U.S. President Donald J. Trump discussed the North Korean crisis again by phone. This is the second time in two weeks that the two leaders had phone conversations about North Korea.
According to a statement issued by the White House, Trump and Xi discussed “North Korea’s continued defiance of the international community and its efforts to destabilize Northeast Asia.
“The two leaders committed to maximizing pressure on North Korea through vigorous enforcement of United Nations Security Council resolutions,” the statement said.
In the Chinese version, the discussion on North Korea was significantly downplayed and relegated to a single sentence in the very end: “The two leaders also exchanged views on the current situation on the Korean Peninsula.”
The Chinese version elaborated on other topics the two leaders covered, including Trump’s upcoming state visit to China and the recent hurricane damage in the United States.
Despite the obvious downplay of the North Korean issue in the Chinese statement, the fact that the two leaders have maintained frequent contact demonstrates their mutual anxiety over the crisis. China tends to be less willing than the United State to publicly condemn North Korea, partly for cultural reasons.
On September 6, Xi and Trump had a phone conversation regarding the North Korean crisis. That conversation took place days after North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test, which caused a strong tremor in China’s northern area.
Notably, the Chinese version of the dialogue, issued by China’s foreign ministry, used two paragraphs to explain Xi’s firm commitment “to realize the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and Trump’s reply. While put diplomatically, the length of Xi’s comments on the issue indicates his growing frustration with Pyongyang and Beijing’s hardening attitude.
This hardening aside, China remains alarmed at statements made by American leaders implying the country will resort to military means to deal with North Korea. On September 17, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley claimed that she was perfectly happy to hand the North Korean problem over to U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, since the U.N. Security Council has “pretty much exhausted all the things that we can do.”
In response, Chinese foreign ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said on September 18, “The UN Security Council Resolution 2375 was just adopted not long ago. The pressing matter of the moment for all relevant parties is implementing the resolution comprehensively and strictly, rather than complicating the issue.”