Russia could be helping North Korea procure supplies in clear violation of international sanctions. Pyongyang is perilously getting “closer every day” to being able to deliver a long-range missile to the United States. All these are according to President Donald Trump’s announcement on Wednesday.
Trump revealed during an Oval Office interview with the Reuters his beef with Russia, even saying China is doing a much better job in aiding the U.S. on the North Korea issue. The President said: “Russia is not helping us at all with North Korea. What China is helping us with, Russia is denting. In other words, Russia is making up for some of what China is doing.”
Interestingly, both China and Russia signed onto the latest rounds of sanctions the United Nations Security Council imposed against North Korea last year.
Trump currently doubts if talking with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would do any good at this point, a departure from his previous statements of an openness to talk with the rogue leader. Trump said: “I’d sit down, but I’m not sure that sitting down will solve the problem.”
Trump noted that past negotiations with the isolated nation by his predecessors had all failed to contain Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. Trump stressed: “They’ve talked for 25 years and they’ve taken advantage of our presidents, of our previous presidents.”
Reuters’ Western European sources said in late December that Russian tankers had supplied fuel to North Korea on at least three occasions in recent months by transferring cargoes at sea, which is a clear violation of international sanctions. Russia, however, denied such reports.
North Korea isolated from the rest of the world due in large part to international pressure and sanctions relies on imported fuel to keep its struggling economy floating. It also primarily needs oil, too, for its international ballistic missile and nuclear program.
Trump says that Russian President Vladimir Putin could do a lot for the U.S. in containing North Korea but things are being hampered by the continuous allegations that Russia interfered in the last U.S. presidential election.
The President said: “He can do a lot. But unfortunately we don’t have much of a relationship with Russia, and in some cases, it’s probable that what China takes back, Russia gives. So the next result is not as good as it could be.”
In turn, Trump gave credit to China for its effort to restrict oil and coal supplies to North Korea. He still thinks, however, that Beijing could do much more. The White House said last week that it welcomed news that imports to China from North Korea, which counts Beijing as its main economic partner, plunged in December to their lowest in dollar terms since at least 2014.
Trump also warned that North Korea is steadily progressing in its ability to deliver a missile to the U.S. Trump said: “They’re not there yet, but they’re close. And they get closer every day.”
Trump, however, will not reveal the next move of the U.S., especially on questions whether the country has plans to take a limited, pre-emptive attack on Pyongyang to illustrate that it means business. Trump said: “We’re playing a very, very hard game of poker and you don’t want to reveal your hand.”