U.S. President Donald Trump will travel to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines on Nov. 3-14 amid an increasingly tense standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons, as Beijing ordered all North Korean-owned businesses within its borders to close by early January.
"The president's engagements will strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat and ensure the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," the White House said in a statement on Friday.
Trump will attend regional summits and discuss trade and the North Korean nuclear threat. The announcement comes as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prepares for a second trip to China, as Trump and North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un trade increasingly hostile rhetoric.
China has ordered all North Korean-owned businesses in China to close by January, in a bid to shut off foreign revenue streams for Pyongyang under United Nations sanctions imposed over its nuclear and missile programs.
Companies, including joint ventures with Chinese firms, have 120 days to close from Sept. 11, the date the U.N. resolution was adopted, China's commerce ministry said on Thursday, in a move which will likely affect around 100 restaurants run by North Koreans, a quarter of which are located in Beijing.
Meanwhile, Tillerson will meet with his counterpart Wang Yi and other Chinese leaders on Saturday, where he will call on the ruling Chinese Communist Party to take further steps on limiting crucial oil supplies to North Korea, as well as pressing for the full implementation of existing United Nations sanctions.
"The major tasks of his visit to China are exchange of in-depth views on ways to strengthen China-U.S. relations, in particular President Donald Trump's state visit to China ... and on major international and regional issues of common concern," foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular news conference in Beijing.
But he declined to comment further.
"If there is further information we will provide it in a timely fashion," he said.
Properly enforced restrictions
U.S. officials say that if restrictions on trade in textiles, coal and other commodities are properly enforced, North Korea will lose the vast majority of its export revenue.
China accounts for about 90 percent of North Korea's foreign trade, and Washington sees it as pivotal to putting pressure on Pyongyang to disarm.
U.S. officials have lauded recent measures by Beijing, while Trump recently said that China had ordered its banks to stop dealing with North Korea, although no public announcement has been made.
Chinese analysts, whose thinking often informs and reflects policy in Beijing, are skeptical, however, while officials have repeatedly called for a return to the negotiating table and a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Wu Fei, senior fellow at the Chinese public diplomacy and international relations think tank Chahar Institute, said there may be limits to the pressure such sanctions can exert on North Korea.
"They have no industrial products to speak of, and their harvest is pretty much gathered in now," Wu said. "Their demand for basic resources will be pretty low for the next six months or so."
"They don't rely on the outside world for much, and that includes China. North Korea wants to show the rest of the world how independent it is; this is the impression they want to create," he said.
"I reckon they can hold out for another six months or so."
However, Chinese journalist Xu Xiang said public opinion in China is swinging firmly against its isolated Stalinist neighbor.
"This policy of opposing the U.S. and supporting North Korea: What have we gotten in return for the blood spilled by our fathers' generation [in the 1950-1953 Korean War]?" Xu said. "All it's done is turn the Kim dynasty into even worse bandits than they were before."
"As Chinese citizens, we feel pretty unsafe," he said.
But Xu added that China doesn't believe it has the key to the North Korean nuclear crisis.
"The only country that can solve this is the United States, and only military force is going to sort this out properly," he said.
U.S.-based retired Toledo University professor Ran Bogong said the ruling Chinese Communist Party is still hoping to force some concessions out of Pyongyang, however.
"China is hoping now to force Kim Jong Un into making some kind of compromise vis-à-vis the U.S.," Ran said. "The U.S. and China need to work closely to ensure that when Trump visits, there is some kind of definite result."
"Neither Beijing nor Washington wants to see the North Korean issue create further conflict between them."
Reported by Lin Ping and Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.