China Eases Economic Pressure on North Korea, Undercutting the Trump Admin

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 told. From coal shipments to revived construction projects to planes ferrying Chinese tourists to Pyongyang, China has reopened the door to both legal and illegal trade with the North, throwing the North Korean government a vital lifeline while derailing U.S. diplomacy.

While China rolled out the red carpet for Kim, Beijing's enforcement of U.N. sanctions began to soften and its limits on legal commerce also eased, according to regional analysts who track cross-border trade, foreign diplomats and former U.S. officials. As a result, the White House's bid to impose "maximum pressure" on North Korea, in hopes of pushing the regime to abandon its nuclear and missile program, has been dealt a severe blow.

"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.

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