China lists fentanyl as controlled substance after US pleas to crack down on drug

Bags of fentanyl are displayed at the US Customs and Border Protection area at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, on Nov 29, 2017. The drug is 50 times stronger than heroin and has caused record overdose deaths in the US. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - China announced on Monday (April 1) that it would add fentanyl analogues to its controlled substance list from May 1, following United States pleas for Beijing to crack down on the drug fuelling a deadly opioid crisis.

China is suspected of being the main source of the narcotic, which is 50 times stronger than heroin and has caused record overdose deaths in the US.

The issue has figured in trade talks between the US and China, and Beijing promised to list the drug when presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping agreed to a tariffs truce in December.

The American concerns have "all been resolved", Mr Liu Yuejin, deputy director of the National Anti-Drug Commission, said at a press conference on Monday.

"The US is concerned about all variants (of fentanyl), and it's all been resolved," said Mr Liu.

American officials listening in the audience declined to comment.

In December, Mr Trump said the move could be a "game changer", noting that Chinese courts can sentence drug traffickers to death.

"If China cracks down on this 'horror drug', using the Death Penalty for distributors and pushers, the results will be incredible!" Mr Trump tweeted at the time.

The move comes as China's top trade negotiator, Vice-Premier Liu He, prepares to return to Washington this week for more talks, following discussions in Beijing last week.

Diplomats invited to attend the briefing said Beijing's action marked an important step for combating the drug trade.

"What China did today was extremely important," said Mr Stefan Thorsell, a police and customs liaison officer for the Swedish embassy in Beijing.

"Even though Sweden is a small country, we have problems - not as big as the United States - but we have problems with fentanyl as well," he said.

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