BEIJING • China is buying less from North Korea as it implements United Nations sanctions aimed at reining in the nuclear ambitions of Mr Kim Jong Un, according to a Chinese Customs official.
Imports fell 13.2 per cent to US$880 million (S$1.2 billion) in the six months to June 30 from the same period a year earlier, the Customs bureau said yesterday.
"China has always been strictly abiding by the UN Security Council resolutions and related laws to impose sanctions on North Korea," Mr Huang Songping, spokesman for the General Administration of Customs, said at a briefing in Beijing.
China is under pressure from the United States and others to show it is complying with UN sanctions designed to put an economic squeeze on Mr Kim's weapons programmes.
US President Donald Trump said on July 5 that China had not done enough to pressure its neighbour, after Pyongyang successfully tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile the day before. Mr Trump also said China's trade with North Korea had grown nearly 40 per cent in the first quarter.
Mr Huang said yesterday that total trade rose 10.5 per cent to US$2.55 billion in the first six months of this year compared with the same period a year ago.
China's exports to North Korea rose 29.1 per cent in the first half of this year. The exports were largely driven by textile products and other traditional labour-intensive goods not included on the UN embargo list, Mr Huang said.
"As neighbours, China and North Korea maintain normal business and trade exchanges," he said, adding that goods for ordinary people and those used for humanitarian reasons are not subject to sanctions.
Mr Huang added that numbers showing an increase are not evidence that China is failing to enforce UN resolutions, with imports from North Korea falling every month since March.
Imports from the North declined 36.5 per cent in March, he said. They slid 41.6 per cent in April, 31.6 per cent in May and 28.9 per cent last month. In addition, China's imports of coal totalled 2.68 million tonnes in the first half of the year, down 74.5 per cent from the previous year.
Since the July 4 ballistic missile test, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has been pushing for fresh measures that may include further curbs on China's trade with North Korea.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China's cooperation on North Korea was "uneven" when he spoke to lawmakers last month, saying US officials were concerned about actions by both the government and other entities in China.
China's Foreign Ministry this week urged a halt to what it called the "China responsibility theory" on North Korea, saying all parties needed to pull their weight.
"Certain countries have no right to make wanton criticisms of China," Ms Su Xiaohui of the China Institute of International Studies, the Foreign Ministry think-tank, said in a front-page comment in the overseas edition of the official People's Daily on Wednesday.