WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump chastised China today for doing too little to starve North Korea of funds and exert pressure over its nuclear pursuits, as his administration searched for new ways to confront Pyongyang after its unprecedented test of a missile capable of hitting the US.
North Korea's launch this week of an intercontinental ballistic missile demonstrated a dangerous new reach for weapons it hopes to top with nuclear warheads one day.
As the US demands global action to counter the threat, the Trump administration is finding that some of the most obvious tools to increase pressure on the North have already been tried and failed.
Trump, since entering the White House, has placed a particular focus on pushing China, North Korea's biggest trading partner, to use its influence and ramp up economic pressure.
Trump expressed optimism after his first meeting with China's President Xi Jinping that the two would work together effectively on the issue, but in recent days Trump has increasingly conceded the strategy has not produced fast results.
"Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter," Trump wrote on Twitter today, moments before departing for a trip to Poland.
"So much for China working with us â€” but we had to give it a try!"
As he flew to Poland on Air Force One, Trump spoke by phone about the North Korean threat with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, emphasizing the need for countries to implement U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The White House said Trump also discussed the need for nations to "stop hosting North Korean guest workers", an issue Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also mentioned in his response a night earlier to the missile launch.
Restricting guest workers is one way the US and other countries could try to reduce North Korea's access to foreign currently. There are some 50,000-60,000 North Korean workers abroad, mostly in Russia and China, South Korea's spy service has said, including at about 130 restaurants North Korea operates overseas. The workers' mission involves earning money to bring into North Korea.
In his initial response to the launch on Monday evening, Trump urged China on Twitter to "put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!" But he also said it was "hard to believe" that South Korea and Japan, the two U.S. treaty allies most at risk from North Korea, would "put up with this much longer."
North Korea conducts about 90 percent of its trade through China. In April, Chinese customs data said total twoway trade between China and North Korea increased 36.8 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period a year earlier.