China may 'ease up' on sanctions against North Korea as the trade war drags on 

  • Beijing could find more reasons to relax its enforcement of sanctions against North Korea as the trade war between the U.S. and China continues, according to Scott Seaman director of Asia at Eurasia Group.
  • "The more that Trump puts pressure on China in the economic front, it stands to reason that the Chinese will be less motivated to cooperate well on North Korea," Seaman said.

As President Donald Trump continues to ramp up trade pressure on China, Beijing may be "less motivated to cooperate" with the U.S. over sanctions against North Korea, an expert told CNBC Wednesday.

"China has been taking steps to relax its enforcement of sanctions even before the trade tensions with the United States flared up," according to Scott Seaman director of Asia at political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group.

But as the trade war between the world's two largest economies drags on, China could find more reasons to relax its enforcement of sanctions against North Korea, he said.

The U.S. and China are currently embroiled in a trade spat, with each side slapping additional duties on each other in the past few months. The U.S. has imposed extra tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports — with Trump threatening to impose levies on all $500 billion worth of goods from the Asian giant. Beijing has retaliated with additional tariffs on $110 billion worth of U.S. imports.

"The more that Trump puts pressure on China in the economic front, it stands to reason that the Chinese will be less motivated to cooperate well on North Korea. Even if U.S. keeps sanctions in place — which is the expectation — there is a lot of room for China, Russia and other countries to simply ease up on enforcement," Seaman said.

A woman watches a television screen showing a news broadcast, featuring North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un during a meeting with China's president Xi Jinping, at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. 
SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A woman watches a television screen showing a news broadcast, featuring North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un during a meeting with China's president Xi Jinping, at Seoul Station in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. 

Military officials from the two Koreas held talks with the United Nations Command Tuesday — their first three-way talks — to discuss ways to demilitarize the border between the countries.

After that meeting, North Korea's state media criticized Trump for blocking progress made between the two Koreas, and accused the U.S. of "responding to good faith with evil."

Seaman said that North Korea had not taken concrete steps towards denuclearization despite promising to do soduring the Trump-Kim summit held in Singapore on June 12.

"The world is really still waiting to see that progress begin in earnest," Seaman said.

— CNBC's Saheli Roy Choudhury and Nyshka Chandran contributed to this report.