Saturday 18 November 2017

Beijing forced to defend trade with North Korea as Chinese trucks used in military parade

Missiles on the backs of trucks during a military parade in Kim Il-Sung Square, Pyongyang, last weekend Photo: AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS
Missiles on the backs of trucks during a military parade in Kim Il-Sung Square, Pyongyang, last weekend Photo: AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS

Neil Connor and Nicola Smith

Beijing was forced to defend its trade with North Korea yesterday after it emerged that Chinese-made trucks were used to display missiles in a huge military parade that was staged in Pyongyang.

The images of submarine-launched missiles being pulled by vehicles made by Chinese company Sinotruk at Saturday's parade revealed the difficulty in enforcing strict UN sanctions on the reclusive state.

About 80pc of North Korean overseas trade - including essential food and fuel products - is with China, a signatory of sanctions which ban the export largely of goods which it could use to build up its military.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China conducts "normal" business with the North while adhering to UN Security Council sanctions which began in 2006.

"China has been performing its international obligations strictly, including those stipulated in the Security Council resolution. But meanwhile we carry on normal economic exchanges and trade with all parties including North Korea," Mr Lu said.

A sales manager for a Sinotruck dealer said the trucks were modified for military use after being sold to North Korea.

Beijing banned the import of coal from North Korea in mid-February, but its overall trade with North Korea has increased, customs officials said last week.

China's influential 'Global Times' newspaper threatened yesterday that China could halt "petroleum exports" to its neighbour, a move that would have a devastating affect on the North. It imports almost all its crude oil from China.

However, the state-run media outlet said China would never help the US with measures that would cause "the direct overthrow of the Pyongyang regime".

"Co-operative efforts by China and the US will under no circumstance evolve into any kind of military action against North Korea," said the newspaper, which has close ties with the ruling Communist Party.

Tensions have escalated over North Korea in recent weeks amid fears that it is set to carry out its sixth nuclear test, a move that could provoke a response from US president Donald Trump, who ordered an aircraft carrier group to the region.

US vice-president Mike Pence assured Japan that Washington would stand with its ally in the event of hostilities.

"We are with you 100pc," he said in Japan, during the second leg of a 10-day visit to Asia.

Meanwhile, a former South Korean ambassador to the UN has warned that the current North Korea crisis is the worst he has experienced in decades.

Oh Joon, who retired as ambassador and permanent representative to the UN in December, said: "I think this one is probably more serious than any other similar crisis we have had within the last few decades, not least because North Korea is very close to getting nuclear capabilities.

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