By Charlie Campbell
December 6, 2017

North Korea is on “a suicide mission that makes no sense,” said America’s top envoy to China, adding that President Donald Trump’s 12-day Asian tour last month demonstrates that U.S. leadership in world affairs remains robust.

U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad told the Fortune Global Forum in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou Wednesday that he believes Beijing is enforcing the two new U.N. Security Council resolutions that increase sanctions on the Kim Jong Un regime.

The former Iowa governor visited northeastern China’s Jilin province that borders North Korea just three days after the Kim regime’s sixth nuclear test in September, and said local officials were working hard to curb illicit trade. “They felt it,” Branstad said of the nuclear test. “I know they are also working to implement the sanctions.”

Branstad also revealed that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would meet U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Dec. 19 to discuss the North Korean threat.

“There’s a possibility of Canada working with the United States and other countries to see what can be done to convince them that their security can be protected without nuclear weapons,” he told Time Inc. editorial director Nancy Gibbs in an on-stage interview. “The present direction is dangerous to everyone, but it’s certainly dangerous to North Korea.”

Branstad also praised the relationship between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, who welcomed his American counterpart to Beijing last month as part of an Asia tour that also included Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines.

“The chemistry between the two leaders is very good,” he said. “The Chinese did an outstanding job of making him feel welcome. They had some very frank discussions.”

Branstad has been called an “old friend” by Xi and they have met four times since he took up his posting in Beijing in July. Their relationship stretches back to 1985, when Xi was a young Chinese official leading a five-strong agricultural delegation to Iowa.

Trump accused China’s export-driven economy and $347 billion trade deficit of stealing American jobs during his campaign. During biltaral meetings at Mar-a-Lago in April there were tentative agreements about allowing American credit cards and financial services—though that has not happened yet. Branstad said China still had some way to go until its trading relationship with the U.S. was truly fair and reciprocal.

“The United States, Europe and many other trading partners in the world feel [China] has not fulfilled its obligations to be a market economy under the WTO,” said Branstad, noting, “You can get Wechat in America but you can’t get Facebook here in China.”

 

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