Under pressure from the US and the UN, China has begun to budge on tightening the grip of sanctions — but may demand direct negotiations in exchange for them. Beijing announced that it would support tougher sanctions today in light of “new developments on the Korean Peninsula,” a step away from Russia’s insistence earlier that more sanctions would not help. But will it be enough to keep Donald Trump from imposing penalties on China for trade with the Kim regime?

China’s foreign minister said Thursday that Beijing would support further U.N.-imposed “measures” against North Korea following its largest nuclear test, but stopped short of saying whether China would back crippling economic sanctions such as halts to fuel shipments.

The comments by Wang Yi suggested possible room for cooperation over U.S.-drafted plans to increase pressures on North Korea after its nuclear test earlier this week. …

“Given the new developments on the Korean Peninsula, China agrees that the U.N. Security Council should respond further by taking necessary measures,” the foreign minister Yi told reporters.

“We believe that sanctions and pressure are only half of the key to resolving the issue. The other half is dialogue and negotiation,” he added.

The US and South Korea want an oil embargo, a proposal that Vladimir Putin rejected outright. However, North Korea only gets a small percentage of their oil from Russia; 80% of their imports come from China. Thus far, China has balked at the idea of an oil embargo, but the South China Morning Post reports today that they’re considering a significant reduction in the flow:

Chinese analysts said it was unlikely that Beijing would support a full oil embargo but a partial cut in supplies could be one option to keep its neighbour in check without bringing down the Kim Jong-un regime. …

Zhao Tong, a North Korean affairs expert at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre, said Beijing could tighten restrictions on North Korea’s sources of foreign currency with bans on textile exports and all North Korean labourers working abroad.

North Korea exported US$147.5 million of garments to China in the second quarter, Chinese customs data showed.

Will China’s moves send a signal to Kim? Only if they make them quickly. We might get a test as soon as this weekend:

South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon suggested that Kim Jong Un could order a launch on Saturday, which is the 64th anniversary of the totalitarian regime’s founding.

“There is speculation that there could be an additional provocation of firing an ICBM at a normal angle on [Sept.] 9,” Lee said. …

“It is time to step up sanctions and secure sufficient military means to deter them in order to stop North Korea’s nuclear armament,” Lee said. “We ultimately need talks with North Korea, but it is not the time right now to speak of a dialogue with North Korea.”

A launch at a “normal angle” would simulate an attack, and if it’s a long-range ballistic missile, the US might have no other choice than to assume it to be hostile and aimed at American territory. At some point, we will have to attempt to shoot these down, and that could escalate matters even further. That is why Nikki Haley warned the UN Security Council that the time for diplomatic half-measures were over. For China, the time for worrying about the stability of the Kim regime should really be over, too. The time to end to hereditary dictatorships on the Korean peninsula passed a long time ago, and China’s risking open war on its doorstep by protecting the dissipated third generation out of sheer force of habit.