Stephen Roach, former chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, warns that the fate of the world very well could be riding on President Donald Trump’s trip to Asia.
Roach lists North Korea's more sophisticated missile program as a top geopolitical risk that could ultimately destabilize the region and trigger a global markets sell-off.
"The North Korea issue is by far the highest priority," Roach said told CNBC.
"Putting pressure on China to aggressively deal with North Korea has got to be very important to President Trump," the senior fellow at Yale University said.
Roach wants Trump to tell China that North Korea is a "destabilizing, threatening force to you and us. North Korea is still a very weak economy heavily reliant on foreign trade. You, in China, account for 80 to 90 percent of the trade concentrated in food and fuel. We would urge you to put a total embargo on your trade to North Korea, and if you don't, we are prepared to take action against you in the trade arena."
For his part, Trump arrived in China on Wednesday seeking help to rein in North Korea, telling the reclusive state’s leader he was putting his country in grave danger by developing nuclear weapons.
Trump used some of his toughest language yet against North Korea in a wide-ranging address in Seoul that lodged specific accusations of chilling human rights abuses. He called on countries around the world to isolate Pyongyang by denying it “any form of support, supply or acceptance.”
Meanwhile, Roach explained that the United States could eventually justify imposing wide-ranging tariffs on China if it doesn't cooperate, CNBC.com explained.
"He [Kim Jong Un] has the capability that his father and grandfather never had and that is nuclear weapons," Roach said. "The threat is many times greater than it was back then, and it could only go one way if it is not addressed sooner rather than later."
“Do not underestimate us and do not try us,” Trump told North Korea as he wrapped up a visit to South Korea with a speech to the National Assembly before heading to Beijing, where he was making his first official visit.
Trump painted a dystopian picture of the reclusive North, saying people were suffering in “gulags” and some bribed government officials to work as “slaves” overseas rather than live under the government at home. He offered no evidence to support those accusations, Reuters reported.
Trump’s return to harsh, uncompromising language came a day after he appeared to dial back the bellicose rhetoric that had fueled fears across east Asia of the risk of military conflict. On Tuesday, Trump had even offered a diplomatic opening to Pyongyang to “make a deal.”
He went mostly on the attack in Wednesday’s speech but did promise a “path to a much better future” if North Korea stopped developing ballistic missiles and agreed to “complete, verifiable and total denuclearization” – something Pyongyang has vowed never to do.
“We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. We will not be intimidated,” he told South Korean lawmakers. “And we will not let the worst atrocities in history be repeated here, on this ground we fought and died to secure.”
The North defends its nuclear weapons and missile programs as a necessary defense against what it says are U.S. plans to invade. The United States, which has 28,500 troops in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, denies any such intention.
“The world cannot tolerate the menace of a rogue regime that threatens it with nuclear devastation,” Trump said, speaking as three U.S. aircraft carrier groups sailed to the Western Pacific for exercises - a rare show of such U.S. naval force in the region.
(Newsmax wire services contributed to this report).
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