Sino-US relations

US warns Chinese firms with ties to North Korea may still face sanctions

Washington seeks to keep up pressure on Beijing to do more to contain Pyongyang ahead of inaugural security talks on Wednesday

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 June, 2017, 10:02am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 July, 2017, 11:28pm

The US will keep the option of sanctions against Chinese companies with alleged links to North Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes on the table, a senior US diplomat said on Monday, aiming to push China to increase pressure on Pyongyang ahead of a US-China security dialogue in Washington this week.

“We continue to urge China to exert its unique leverage as North Korea’s largest trading partner, including by fully implementing all the UN Security Council sanctions,” said Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, during a press briefing.

She added that the North Korea nuclear issue was top of the agenda during the dialogue on Wednesday. Ramping up pressure on North Korea is “clearly what we are going to be pursuing with the Chinese this week”, she said.

Washington also wants China to be more involved in the fight against terrorism and the Islamic State extremist group, she said.

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The meeting on Wednesday will be the first diplomacy and security dialogue, one of four discussions mechanisms agreed during the summit between US President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Florida in April.

The dialogue will be co-chaired by Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defence Secretary James Mattis. General Fang Fenghui, a member of China’s Central Military Commission, will also take part.

Thornton reiterated that the US would impose sanctions on Chinese firms or people with alleged economic and financial links to North Korea’s missile and nuclear programmes.

The US has accused a Chinese-based company Mingzheng International Trading of laundering money on behalf of the Foreign Trade Bank, a North Korean lender subject to sanctions, the US Attorney’s office in the District of Columbia said in a statement last Thursday.

“We have made clear that we’re going to take actions where we need to protect our financial system where necessary,” said Thornton. “But we certainly intend to continue the cooperation with China and hope to see them respond to that.”

The Trump administration has also asked Beijing to take action against nearly 10 Chinese companies or people to curb alleged trading with North Korea, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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Tillerson told a hearing at the US House Foreign Affairs Committee last week: “We have asked that they take the action, but President Trump has also been very clear with President Xi that if they either don’t want to take the action or they do not take the action, we will act on our own.”

Douglas Paal, vice-president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said:

“I expect considerable haggling by the US over firms China ought to sanction, based on the report of the UN Panel of Experts, or that the US will apply secondary sanctions in the absence of China unilateral action. ”

China’s foreign ministry said Beijing would work with the United States towards achieving a positive result at the talks.

Spokesman Geng Shuang also reiterated Beijing’s stance over North Korea and the South China Sea, and said it was in the interests of both China and the United States to boost cooperation in fighting against terrorism as both were victims of such violence.

China hoped that both sides could exchange views on the fight against terrorism observing the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, he said.

Additional reporting by Reuters