As should be expected: China eases economic pressure on North Korea, undercutting the Trump administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ policy

China has steadily loosened restrictions on trade with North Korea in recent months, undercutting President Donald Trump’s effort to exert economic pressure on Kim Jong Un’s regime, former U.S. officials and independent experts say. The increase in trade can be traced back to March, when the White House stunned Beijing by announcing plans for Trump to hold an unprecedented meeting with the North Korean dictator.

Fearing a loss of influence with its often recalcitrant ally, China rolled out the red carpet for Kim, inviting him to three successive summits, and began to soften its enforcement of U.N. sanctions and its limits on legal commerce, according to analysts, foreign diplomats and former U.S. officials. “The Trump administration’s much vaunted maximum pressure is now at best minimal pressure,” said Daniel Russel, a former senior State Department official who oversaw China policy. “And that means a huge loss of leverage.”

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