China’s agricultural exports to North Korea surge amid more sanctions
Shipments of corn, rice and wheat to the restive state soar in July and August
As the international community increases the pressure on North Korea to curb its nuclear and missile programmes, China has sharply increased agricultural exports to its restive neighbour in recent months, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
Chinese corn exports to North Korea jumped about 100 times in July and August to 34,964 tonnes from year-earlier levels, the report said, citing figures from Beijing’s General Administration of Customs.
Similarly, rice exports in the period rose 79 per cent to 17,875 tonnes, and wheat flour exports climbed 11-fold to 8,383 tonnes, it said.
In response to North Korea’s ballistic missile launches and its sixth nuclear test, UN sanctions have expanded significantly and now include banning Pyongyang from exporting key items such as coal, iron, lead, seafood and textiles. But there are no restrictions on food imports by North Korea.
China said it was fully enforcing UN sanctions on North Korea so as to compel it to change its provocative behaviour, but its decision to increase food exports to Pyongyang, even as other sanctions came into play, underscored the “resilience in ties” between the two countries, the report quoted analysts as saying.
The jump in corn exports to North Korea came as China had been trying to sell down its overflowing corn stockpiles, the report said.
The report came as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson departed for Beijing for talks with senior Chinese officials on North Korea and other issues.
Speaking at a congressional hearing on Thursday, senior US officials said China held the key to the campaign of international pressure aimed at bringing North Korea back to credible negotiations toward its denuclearisation.
“We recognise that the success of this pressure strategy will depend on heavy cooperation from our international partners, especially Beijing,” Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.
“Our task now is to hold China and others to these internationally binding obligations and to convince China’s leaders to more fully exert their decisive leverage over North Korea,” she said.
Referring to a new US executive order that imposes sanctions on foreign banks and other entities that finance and facilitate trade with North Korea, Sigal Mandelker, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, said she thought China was taking the measure “seriously”.
“We continue to share information with them on actions that we think that they need to take,” Mandelker said in reference to the Chinese government.
“The urgency with which China takes it is going to be key to any successful economic pressure campaign.”