Rex Tillerson is going to do things in china this weekend. He has already said the US will not negotiate with DPRK. He has also said the US will act in the event of evidence that the country can realize its stated aim of reaching the US with a nuclear payload. No one can remember a time when North Korea did not do what it said it would do, sometimes stumbling, sometimes failing, but always soldiering on.

China has flexibility

According to a detailed New York Times report, China has a good deal of room to adjust its stance to North Korea in order to maintain a working relationship with the US.

It can tighten trade and otherwise make it harder for the country to survive. But there are limits and China has never shown an inclination to shut down its neighbor. There is also the prospect of having to deal with a huge refugee influx should DPRK fall on harder times than already exist.

Is this a job for Donald Trump?

Nevertheless, the New York Times says all eyes are on China, as though the weekend meetings with Tillerson have a bearing on what happens with DPRK. Curiously, one could argue that this is a job for Donald Trump. Trump is the one who makes deals, so he says. No deal has worked with the North Koreans and it would be disappointing to end up with a preemptive US attack which took out that country's nuclear capability and risked becoming a sort of Asian 9/11.

It is not an easy problem to solve and no matter what happens in China, what takes place in the country itself is what matters.

Showing respect

If one can hazard a guess there is one thing that almost always works when adversaries of unequal power negotiate.

It is respect. There is perhaps no more disrespected a nation than North Korea. But at present, there are no plans to talk or meet eye to eye. Donald Trump could defy everything and go straight to the DPRK leadership and see what (if anything) can be done outside the box

The truth of the matter is that North Korea has been sanctioned forever and it achieved nothing.

An imaginative approach might envision North Korea as the ideal location for an experiment in global development that no other nation wishes to risk. Perhaps within that approach, there could be an offer the DPRK would not refuse.