China has announced it will limit oil supplies to North Korea under UN sanctions, stepping up pressure on Pyongyang over its pursuit of nuclear and missile technology.
The announcement comes as a massive dent in the diplomatic ties between the two East Asian neighbours who are generally considered to be close allies.
Exports of refined petroleum to the North will be limited to 2 million barrels per year and sales of liquefied natural gas banned outright, the Commerce Ministry said.
China also will ban textile imports from the North, the ministry said. Textiles are one of the North’s last major sources of foreign revenue following repeated rounds of UN sanctions. As per those sanctions, Beijing had earlier cut off purchases of coal, iron ore, seafood and other goods.
China accounts for some 90 percent of the North’s trade, making its cooperation critical to any efforts to derail Pyongyang’s development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
Chinese leaders were long the North’s diplomatic protectors but express increasing frustration with the government of Kim Jong Un.
They have supported the latest rounds of UN Security Council sanctions but are reluctant to push Pyongyang too hard for fear the government might collapse.
They also argue against doing anything that might hurt ordinary North Koreans. Petroleum exports for use in the North’s ballistic missile program or other activities are banned by UN sanctions, the Commerce Ministry said.