Photo: Reuters/Damir Sagolj
Photo: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

The Trump administration imposed fresh new sanctions on North Korea Tuesday, a day after putting the country back on a list of state sponsers of terrorism, quieting speculation of building momentum for talks.

China responded to the re-designation, as well as North Korea’s response, with an urge for calm on both sides.

“China hopes relevant parties could do more to ease the tensions, and help all relevant parties return to negotiations and to the right track to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue and talks,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang was reported by the Global Times as saying Tuesday.

The statement came after a back-and-forth between the Trump administration and North Korean state media.

“The hideous crimes committed by the lunatic president of the US are a blatant challenge to the dignity of the supreme leadership of North Korea,” the Global Times quoted an article in North Korea’s official Rodong Sinmun as saying. “Those who trample on and make a mockery of North Korea’s dignity can never go scot-free,” the article warned, without specifically referencing the terror designation.

Trump announced that the move “will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea … and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime.”

“This just continues to tighten the pressure on the Kim regime,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said following Trump’s announcement, “all with an intention to have him understand that this is only going to get worse until you are ready to come and talk.”

The war of words follows a period of relative calm in the US-North Korea relationship, which prompted some speculation that momentum was building for negotiations. Those hopes were tempered by analysis that North Korea will not come to the negotiating table until it has more conclusively demonstrated a capability to strike the United States with a nuclear weapon.

Kim Jong-un’s apparent snub of Xi Jinping’s reported efforts to deliver a hand written message through a special envoy has added support to the argument that Kim is as of yet unready to come to the table. The reports of Kim refusing to meet with the envoy, Song Tao, also reinforce China’s insistence that Beijing has limited sway over Pyongyang.

The South China Morning Post reported that Kim’s refusal was in stark contrast to Xi Jinping’s decision to meet with the Pyongyang’s special envoy to Beijing after North Korea’s ruling party’s congress.

“Reciprocity is an important part of diplomatic protocol, especially among communist parties,” political analyst at Nanjing University Gu Su was quoted as saying. “Apparently, Kim was unhappy with Xi’s bonhomie during Trump’s recent China tour and Beijing’s decision to side with Washington on a spate of international sanctions against North Korea. The snub is likely to see Beijing’s relations with Pyongyang reduced to near freezing point.”