Frustrated that China has not done more to rein in North Korea, the Trump administration could impose new sanctions on small Chinese banks and other firms doing business with Pyongyang within weeks, two senior USA officials said.
USA president Donald Trump recently claimed on Twitter that China-DPRK trade surged a whopping 40-percent in Q1, which sparked widespread concerns over China's true stance on issues related to North Korea. They had risen by 18% in the quarter ended March.
Since taking office in January, Trump has vowed to press Beijing, North Korea's only major ally and largest trade partner, to do more to curb the reclusive regime's weapons programs.
The decline follows China's decision in February to ban all imports of North Korean coal. He called out the "nearly 40%" increase in trade in the first three months of the year on Twitter last week.
China imported only 2.67 million metric tons of coal from North Korea in the first half of this year, a year-on-year drop of 74.5 percent, Huang noted. North Korean men who try to leave are likely to be rapidly identified as absent by their work units.
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Sanctions are also the measure with the greatest potential to rankle Beijing, which considers unilateral sanctions a violation of national sovereignty and fears the economic disruption that sanctions might cause.
"The sanctions imposed by the [United Nations] are not a comprehensive embargo", he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on July 5 that China hadn't done enough to pressure its neighbor, after Pyongyang successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile.
On Wednesday, China's foreign ministry bristled at questions about ongoing trade with Pyongyang that seems to skirt United Nations sanctions meant to isolate the regime - and reiterated its hostility to broader economic sanctions.
"The new figures that the customs bureau have put out today suggest [they] have made an effort, at least on paper", he added.