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Ex-CIA chief: China only card for resolving N. Korea problem

All Headlines 02:21 July 07, 2017

WASHINGTON, July 6 (Yonhap) -- China is still the only card the U.S. can use to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, a former CIA chief said, despite calls for tougher measures against Pyongyang in the wake of its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

James Woolsey, who served as CIA director during the administration of Bill Clinton, made the remark in an interview with AOL.com, saying regime change isn't likely going to work for the North.

"Regime change in North Korea is very difficult, and I don't know what leverage we've got," Woolsey said. "It's very hard to figure out how to do that, and Kim Jong-un doesn't seem like the type of leader that can be persuaded to step down by sweet reason."

"I think our only card is China," Woolsey said . "We have to convince China to work with us and to continue its economic pressure and enhance its economic pressure... I think China is the ballgame."

U.S. President Donald Trump has expressed growing frustration after months of fruitless effort to persuade China to exercise more of its influence as the North's economic lifeline to rein in the regime. China accounts for nearly 90 percent of the North's total trade.

On Wednesday, Trump questioned the sincerity of China's efforts to pressure North Korea, pointing out that trade between China and the North grew nearly 40 percent. Last month, he also said that Chinese efforts have "not worked out."

Since then, the U.S. has downgraded China's human trafficking status, blacklisted China's Bank of Dandong as a primary money laundering concern, and approved the first arms sales to Taiwan since Trump came into office.

These contrasted sharply with April's decision not to label China a currency manipulator in order to avoid hurting Chinese feelings at a time when the U.S. was asking for its help to bring the provocative regime in Pyongyang under control.

China is North Korea's last-remaining major ally and a key provider of food and fuel supplies. But it has been reluctant to use its influence over Pyongyang for fear that pushing the regime too hard could result in instability in the North and hurt Chinese national interests.

Analysts doubt how far China can go in pressuring Pyongyang, saying China has often increased pressure on the North in the past, especially when Pyongyang carried out nuclear and missile tests and other provocative acts, but it never went as far as to cause real pain.

"What you have to have is a deal with China that gets China working with you and puts real pressure on North Korea, particularly financial pressure," Woolsey said on CNN. "You can't really trust a deal with the North Koreans at all."

He also criticized Trump for his Twitter habits.

"We're headed, I'm afraid, toward the real possibility of a nuclear crisis," Woolsey said on CNN. "It is also going to be a real disaster if the White House uses Twitter in the middle of a nuclear crisis."

jschang@yna.co.kr
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