China’s trade with North Korea slumped in September as the U.S. and others call for Beijing to do more to rein in its nuclear neighbor.
Chinese imports dropped for the seventh straight month in September, as imports were 37.9 percent less compared the figure from the same period last year, and exports to the rogue regime decreased by 6.7 percent last month, General Administration of Customs spokesman Huang Songping revealed to reporters at a press conference in Beijing.
Successive rounds of United Nations sanctions, products of U.S.-led efforts to punish North Korea for its missile and nuclear weapons testing, have cut more than 90 percent of all North Korean exports, limited key imports, and restricted the country’s ability to generate money through overseas labor. While China has traditionally been resistant and uncooperative, often skirting sanctions using loopholes in U.N. resolutions, China has expressed a greater willingness to complicate things for Pyongyang.
As China has long served as the rogue regime’s primary trading partner, with the vast majority of all North Korean trade linked to China, the U.S. and others have repeatedly called on Beijing to increase pressure on North Korea. The Trump administration has even threatened to cut bilateral trade between the U.S. and China if the latter fails to fully implement sanctions. The president and his team have made it clear that the world can either do business with the U.S. or North Korea, but not both.
While Beijing resists America’s heavy-handed approach and denies that it is the part of the problem on the Korean Peninsula, China has put increased pressure on the regime.
China has banned all coal imports from North Korea, eliminating a key source of revenue for the regime. China’s central bank has ordered domestic financial institutions to stop doing business with North Korea, and Beijing has ordered all North Korean companies and joint ventures in China to shut down within the next few months. Furthermore, many North Korean laborers also face eviction as their visas expire with no chance of renewal.
The pressure campaign and the threat of war appears to have pushed China to begin to start putting real pressure on North Korea in order to change Pyongyang’s strategic calculus.
The only times China has put pressure on North Korea was when “the Chinese were absolutely convinced the U.S. was ready to go to war on the Peninsula,” Deputy Assistant Director of CIA for Korea Mission Center Yong Suk Lee said at a conference at George Washington University. He argued that it is important America make clear the seriousness of its convictions.
He suggested that President Donald Trump has been doing that through his tough rhetoric and the deployment of strategic military assets to the region. “That clarity of the strong purpose statement from the president, clarity of purpose demonstrated on the ground … I think that needs to continue, and that probably actually needs to increase to really demonstrate that strong will, if nothing else, to the Chinese,” Lee explained.
The strategy appears to be paying off, but given North Korea’s advanced capabilities, current Chinese actions may be too little too late.
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