Beijing orders North Korean firms in China to close by January

The Friendship Bridge connecting China and North Korea. China will limit exports of refined petroleum products to the North as well.
The Friendship Bridge connecting China and North Korea. China will limit exports of refined petroleum products to the North as well. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • China has ordered North Korean companies in the country to shut down by January as it applies United Nations sanctions imposed following Pyongyang's sixth nuclear test, the Commerce Ministry said yesterday.

The ministry said the companies, including joint ventures with Chinese firms, have 120 days to close from the date the Security Council resolution was adopted on Sept 11.

The announcement comes days after China confirmed that it will apply another major part of the sanctions: A limit on exports of refined petroleum products to North Korea starting on Sunday, and a ban on textiles from its neighbour.

Branches of China's biggest banks told Agence France-Presse that they had suspended financial transactions for North Koreans, a measure not required under UN sanctions.

China's application of UN sanctions is particularly damaging for North Korea. Beijing is Pyongyang's main ally and trading partner, responsible for around 90 per cent of the hermit nation's commerce.

The United States has pressed China to use its economic leverage to pressure Pyongyang into giving up its nuclear ambitions.

TWO-PRONGED APPROACH

Sanctions and the promoting of talks are both the requirements of the UN Security Council. We should not overemphasise one aspect while ignoring the other.

CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESMAN LU KANG

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Beijing this weekend for talks with China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Mr Tillerson will discuss the North Korean tensions, trade issues and President Donald Trump's planned trip to China in November, the US State Department said. Mr Trump's tour will also take in regional allies Japan and South Korea.

Washington has alternated between criticising and praising Beijing's role in the North Korea crisis, welcoming its support for new sanctions, but insisting it must do more.

For its part, China has called on both Mr Trump and North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un to tone down their increasingly bellicose rhetoric and instead try to begin peace talks.

"We are opposed to any war on the Korean peninsula, and the international community will never allow a war (which would) plunge people into an abyss of misery," Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said.

"Sanctions and the promoting of talks are both the requirements of the UN Security Council. We should not overemphasise one aspect while ignoring the other."

While China has imposed sanctions on its renegade neighbour, it wants to avoid precipitating the regime's downfall over fears that its collapse could send an influx of refugees across its border and place the US Army at its doorstep. But Beijing appears to be running out of patience with North Korea's nuclear antics - the last test earlier this month triggered an earthquake that was felt in north-east China.

In Seoul, a top security official said he expected more provocative acts by North Korea next month to coincide with the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean Communist Party and China's all-important Communist Party Congress.

At a meeting with President Moon Jae In yesterday, National Security Adviser Chung Eui Yong said he expected Pyongyang to act around Oct 10 and 18, but gave no details.

South Korea is reported to have already taken extra measures to try to ensure the safety of the 2018 Winter Games, including setting up a crack cyber-defence team and doubling the number of troops.

The Games take place in February in Pyeongchang, just 80km from the border with North Korea.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2017, with the headline 'Beijing orders North Korean firms in China to close by January'. Print Edition | Subscribe