China has banned imports of North Korean coal, iron ore and seafood, a move that could assuage Washington’s demands on Beijing to ratchet up economic pressure on Pyongyang.
The trade halt, announced Monday, follows a weekend phone call between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his US counterpart Donald Trump on how to deal with North Korea’s advances in developing nuclear weapons and missiles, the Wall Street Journal reports.
China is by far North Korea’s biggest trading partner, accounting for more than 80 percent of Pyongyang’s external trade for the past five years.
Trump has said he would cut Beijing slack over trade disputes if he felt the Chinese were being helpful in reining in Pyongyang.
The measures announced by Beijing on Monday, however, don’t go beyond the UN-approved curbs.
China has long shied away from severe punitive steps, such as cutting off fuel and food supplies, due to fears such moves could trigger the collapse of the North Korean regime, the Journal noted.
In a statement, the Chinese government said it was acting to comply with the new UN sanctions which are aimed at slashing about US$1 billion off North Korea’s annual foreign revenue.
“The North Korean nuclear issue and the China-US trade issue are totally different and it is not appropriate to use one as a tool to keep pressure on the other issue,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said on Monday.
In July, Beijing reported a 10.5 percent rise in trade with North Korea in the first half of this year, an increase Beijing defended as part of its economic relationship in areas not covered by UN sanctions.
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