Friday 23 February 2018

China indicates support for sanctions on North Korea but is wary of cutting oil supply

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi is prepared to back further measures at the UN. Photo: Reuters
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi is prepared to back further measures at the UN. Photo: Reuters

Neil Connor

China has said it backs further measures against North Korea, although Chinese analysts doubt that Beijing will support tough new sanctions being proposed by the US.

The US is seeking an oil embargo, a ban on the textiles trade and a freeze on the assets of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, in what would be the harshest measures yet aimed at confronting Pyongyang's nuclear build-up.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said: "Given the new developments on the Korean peninsula, China agrees that the UN Security Council should respond further by taking necessary measures."

However, the oil embargo is likely be a major source of contention between Beijing and Washington, given that China supplies nearly all of North Korea's oil via an ageing pipe that passes through the border between the two countries.

Beijing has backed existing sanctions on coal, iron ore and seafood, but insists that the crisis can only be resolved through negotiations.

It believes that if it turns off the oil taps, the North Korean state could collapse, forcing a flood of refugees into China's north-eastern provinces and the possibility of a new pro-US regime on its doorstep.

China is also North Korea's main trading partner in textiles, an industry which currently provides the North with its main source of export revenue.

US President Donald Trump has warned that he will not "put up with" North Korea and said that Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, agreed with him "100pc" in confronting Kim's regime.

But Liu Ning, a Beijing-based expert on north-east Asia, noted that Mr Xi told Mr Trump in a telephone call on Wednesday night that the crisis must be resolved through "dialogue and consultation".


"This is a signal that China's policy to North Korea has not changed over the past decade," he said.

"And there won't be fundamental changes in China's policy toward North Korea.

"I don't think China is going to obey orders from the US on the North Korean issue."

Wang Dong, an expert on north-east Asia from Peking University in Beijing, said the US should bear the responsibility for solving the North Korean crisis, as Washington was to "blame" for forcing the North to build up its military as a means of defending itself from a possible US strike.

"We can see that sanctions are just a tool and not, as some western analysts believe, something that can solve every problem," Professor Wang said.

The sanctions proposal, which is likely to be voted on at the United Nations on Monday, is also expected to be opposed by Russia.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, reiterated his opposition to the sanctions yesterday, but also said he believed that the Trump administration was "willing to resolve the situation".

Meanwhile, Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe repeated their calls for tougher sanctions on North Korea when they met in the Russian city of Vladivostock yesterday.

South Korea is seeking to bolster its defensive capabilities against a possible strike from the North and has now added more launchers to a US missile-defence system known as Thaad.

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