China will halt iron, iron ore and seafood imports from North Korea starting Tuesday, following through on new UN sanctions after US pressure for Beijing to strong-arm Pyongyang over its nuclear programme.
The decision was announced on Monday after days of increasingly aggressive rhetoric between US President Donald Trump and President Kim Jong-Un’s regime, which has raised international alarm on where the crisis is headed.
Beijing had pledged to fully enforce the latest sanctions after the United States accused China of not doing enough to rein in its neighbour, which relies heavily on the Asian giant for its economic survival.
The Chinese Commerce Ministry said on its website that all imports of coal, iron, iron ore and seafood will be “completely prohibited” from Tuesday. Beijing had already announced a suspension of coal imports in February.
The United Nations Security Council, including permanent member Beijing, approved tough sanctions against Pyongyang on August 6 that could cost the country $1 billion a year.
The sanctions were in response to the North’s two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month, after which President Kim boasted that he could now strike any part of the United States.
But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi vowed after the UN sanctions were given the green light that his country “will for sure implement the new resolution 100 percent, fully and strictly”.
Regional tensions have mushroomed in the past week as President Trump warned North Korea it would face “fire and fury” if it attacked the United States while the North threatened to test-fire its missiles towards the US Pacific island of Guam.
The war of words has sparked global concerns, with world leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping urging calm on both sides in a phone call with Mr Trump over the weekend.
South Korean President Moon Jae-In, a left-leaning leader who has previously advocated dialogue with the North, joined the appeals for restraint on Monday.
President Moon called for an end to “all provocations and hostile rhetoric immediately, instead of worsening the situation any further”.
The governor of Guam, Eddie Calvo, defended President Trump’s rhetoric against President Kim’s regime, saying in an interview with AFP that “sometimes a bully can only be stopped with a punch in the nose”.
China has pleaded for a resumption of long-dormant six-nation talks to peacefully resolve the crisis.
But its proposal for North Korea to suspend its arms programmes in return for the United States to halt military drills in the region had been ignored.
“The relevant parties should exercise restraint, in order to avoid aggravating the words and deeds of the tense situation on the Korean peninsula,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chungying said on Monday.
“In order to resolve the Korean peninsula nuclear issue ultimately, relevant parties should persist in negotiations and stay committed to the general direction of a political settlement,” she said.