China releases list of goods banned from export to North Korea

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has released a list of technologies and goods banned from export to North Korea because of their possible use in building nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, China's Ministry of Commerce said on Monday.

China and other members of the United Nations have declined in the past to give a full list of items banned from export, a situation that UN monitors say has made difficult the task of determining whether Beijing is really implementing sanctions.

"It means China is strictly complying with the UN Security Council resolutions," said Mr Zhang Liangui, an expert on North Korea at China's Central Party School.

"Frankly, since North Korea conducted the third nuclear test in February, China has begun to adjust its policy toward North Korea, including prohibiting exports of dangerous products."

China is North Korea's sole major ally but it criticised the North's nuclear test in February. China has repeatedly called for the denuclearistion of the Korean Peninsula.

China was also frustrated with North Korea's threats against South Korea and the United States after the imposition of new UN sanctions following the nuclear test.

China signed on to those UN sanctions but it remains North Korea's largest trading partner and the UN has criticised it for failing to enforce trade bans on the North.

China has also come under pressure, especially from the United States, to moderate its support for the North.

The 236-page list names dozens of products known as"dual-use technologies", meaning that although ostensibly meant for civilian purposes, they can be used in military programmes.

"The dual-use products and technologies that are forbidden from being exported to North Korea delineated in this list have uses in weapons of mass destruction," the Commerce Ministry said in a statement on its website.

It did not say if the document was a comprehensive list of banned goods.

Released by the Commerce Ministry, along with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and the China Atomic Energy Authority, the document describes items that could be used to build nuclear and chemical weapons, as well as technology that could build and fuel nuclear reactors.

It also explicitly bans the export of several biological agents, including the Ebola virus.

"North Korea gets a lot of dual-use equipment and materials from China, and Beijing has in recent years become increasingly aware of the risks associated with unbridled commerce of nuclear dual-use technology and equipment," said nuclear proliferation expert Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"Because there are so many producers of these items worldwide it is more difficult to control than goods that are limited to nuclear use."

It was timely for China to crack down on trade of dual-use goods with North Korea, Hibbs added, because it was a member of an international organisation called the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which is currently revising its list of dual-use goods subject to export controls.

While ties between China and North Korea were strained by the nuclear test in February, there has been a thaw in recent months.