China shows backing for watered-down UN resolution on North Korea
Central bank warns institutions to strictly enforce resolutions against Pyongyang as Security Council readies vote
China offered its backing in advance on Monday for what was expected to be a watered-down version of a United Nations Security Council resolution against North Korea after signalling its resolve to enforce sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear brinkmanship.
The US-drafted resolution initially called for an oil embargo on North Korea, and an asset freeze and travel ban on its leader Kim Jong-un. But media reports said it had been toned down in the hope of securing China’s support, no longer proposing to blacklist Kim and recommending less stringent sanctions on oil and gas exports.
The final draft reportedly called for an annual limit on crude oil exports to Pyongyang and a 2 million barrel cap on annual supplies of refined petroleum products. The resolution is a response to North Korea’s sixth nuclear test carried out just over a week ago.
Foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China would agree to a “further response” by the Security Council. However, Geng also said denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula should be achieved through peaceful and diplomatic means.
A recent statement from China’s central bank, which caught media attention on Monday, ordered banks to strictly enforce UN sanctions, calling on various Chinese institutions to carry out “retrospective investigations” on individuals and entities targeted in UN resolutions.
The statement also said these institutions should report back to the central bank and police, and freeze all activity on accounts held by clients targeted by the sanctions.
“Financial institutions and selected non-financial entities shall take necessary and reasonable measures to ensure the timely and accurate implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, and prevent mistakes,” the central bank statement said.
It also said individuals or companies could appeal to Chinese authorities, but the banks should not act on requests from foreign governments or authorities.
Calls have also grown in the US for Washington to impose “secondary sanctions” on Chinese banks that hold money for companies doing business with North Korea.
Despite pressure from the US, China, along with Russia, has been reluctant to assert too much force on Pyongyang, fearing instability along its border.
Some observers said the central bank statement was an attempt to counter criticism that it was not doing enough to rein in its neighbour.
Lu Chao, director of the Border Study Institute at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said the move would make it difficult for China and Pyongyang to do business even though some transactions were conducted through barter trade.
Lu said enforcement of sanctions was lax in the past but China had stepped up the implementation in recent years.
“With more and more resolutions by the UN ... the implementation is getting stricter now,” he said.
China has hinted at growing impatience with North Korea, with Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying last week that “China agrees that the UN Security Council should make a further response and take necessary measures”.
In addition, Kyodo reported on the weekend that branch offices of at least three major Chinese banks – Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China – in the border city of Yanji, Jilin province, had suspended transactions through accounts held by North Koreans, banning them from making deposits or remittances, or opening new accounts.
Meanwhile, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection announced on Sunday it was ending its emergency radiation monitoring in response to the nuclear blast, saying radiation levels were normal in the provinces near the North Korean border.
Additional reporting by Laura Zhou