World

China insists it is upholding UN sanctions against N. Korea

BEIJING: China insisted yesterday it was abiding by UN sanctions on North Korea despite a jump in its trade with the nuclear-armed nation that comes amid growing US calls for Beijing to rein in its neighbour.

Sino-US relations have soured in recent weeks as US President Donald Trump urged Beijing to step up diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea over its nuclear ambitions.

Tensions rose after North Korea's test this month of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the US mainland.

Despite Washington's calls for action, trade between China and its neighbour increased 10.5 per cent to US$2.5 billion (S$3.4b) in the first six months of the year compared to the same period last year, including a 29.1 per cent jump in exports.

But customs administration spokesman Huang Songping said Beijing was upholding the UN sanctions.

"Simple accumulated data cannot be used as evidence to question China's severe attitude in carrying out UN Security Council resolutions," Mr Huang said. He pointed to a 13.2 per cent drop in imports from North Korea in the same period as an example, adding that there have been decreases every month since March.

"UN Security Council sanctions are not a total ban on shipments. Trade related to DPRK people's livelihood, especially those that reflect humanitarianism should not be influenced by the sanctions," Mr Huang said.

In February, China announced the suspension of coal imports from the North, striking a blow at a major source of income for the hermit state.

Mr Huang said coal imports dropped by three-quarters in the first half, and all those shipments had been made before Feb 18.

Mr Trump has complained that trade increased between the two, despite calling on his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to use the nation's unique diplomatic and economic clout over North Korea as leverage.

"Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 per cent in the first quarter. So much for China working with us - but we had to give it a try!" Mr Trump tweeted on July 5.

Previous Chinese customs data showed two-way trade with the North had risen 30.6 per cent in dollar terms in the first three months of the year.

The US ambassador to the UN, Mrs Nikki Haley, said on Sunday that Washington would crank up pressure on China to ensure it implements sanctions over the missile test.

She told the Security Council last week that the US planned a new resolution that would also ensure existing measures are enforced. - AFP

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