The big reason for John Kerry’s China visit is pretty much dead on arrival:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is one his first trip to Asia in 2016, with stops in Laos, Cambodia, and China. Ahead of Kerry’s meetings with Chinese officials on Wednesday, Beijing is making it crystal clear that it has no intention of changing its position on North Korea – effectively scuttling one of the major purposes of Kerry’s trip before he even arrives.
The U.S.-China divide over how to respond to North Korea’s nuclear test on January 6 is clear from the news (or lack thereof) on additional UN Security Council sanctions. Nearly three weeks after North Korea detonated a nuclear device, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power was asked by Reuters if the United States and China (both permanent, veto-wielding members of the UNSC) were close to an agreement on sanctions. Her answer was short and to the point: “No.” By contrast, the UNSC passed a resolution with a new sanctions package just over three weeks after Pyongyang’s nuclear test in 2013.
Kyodo News and NK News indicated that the current sticking point is over a U.S. proposal that would heavily sanction oil exports to North Korea. China, North Korea’s major oil supplier, opposes that draft.
It’s possible to appreciate the sticky situation China is in with North Korea, while also feeling zero sympathy for how China got itself into this mess, and wonderment at Beijing’s refusal to change its ways.
Kerry of course will go down in history as the man who negotiated a nuclear treaty so awful that it isn’t in force anywhere, yet still makes more than enough room for sanctions relief and cheating.