The latest trade figures show that China has increased its exports to North Korea by 21 percent over the past year, amid increased calls from the United States and the international community to exert greater pressure on the North Korean regime.
According to a report from Reuters, China exported $2.55 billion in value to the hermit state in 2017, a 21 percent spike on last year’s figures. Imports from North Korea during that nine-month period fell by 16.7 percent, meaning overall trade rose by 3.7 percent.
In a press conference, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang was asked how these figures show China’s enthusiasm for enforcing U.N. Security Council resolutions on North Korea.
“First of all, China has been comprehensive, accurately, earnestly and strictly implementing the DPRK-related resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council and fulfilling its due international obligations,” Shuang said. “There is no doubt about that.”
“Second, as close neighbors, China and the DPRK maintain normal exchanges and cooperation,” he continued.
“Third,” he concluded, “I want to stress, as is stated in the Security Council resolutions, that measures imposed are not intended to have adverse humanitarian consequences for the civilian population of the DPRK or to affect negatively or restrict those activities, including economic activities and cooperation, food aid and humanitarian assistance, that are not prohibited by resolutions.”
The trade figures, which were published on Tuesday, are likely to concern President Donald Trump and his White House administration, who since taking office have repeatedly urged China to ratchet up the pressure on the North Korean regime.
Following North Korea’s successful testing of a hydrogen bomb in September, Trump threatened to stop trade with any country doing business with North Korea, which was interpreted as a veiled threat against China, whose economy relies heavily on trade with the United States.
Responding to Trump’s threat, Geng said such a move would not be justified as China continues to engage in “arduous efforts to peacefully resolve” the issue.
However, Trump has previously claimed he was “very disappointed” in Chinese efforts to resolve the crisis.
“Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”
On Monday, diplomats in both Japan and South Korea have warned that North Korea’s capacity to use nuclear weapons is “imminent” amid escalating tensions in the region, with the country last week threatening to deliver an “unimaginable strike at an unimaginable time” against the United States.
During a speech at the United Nations last month, Trump warned that America would “totally destroy” North Korea if it were forced to do so, and has since described Kim Jong-Un as a “little rocket man” carrying out a “suicide mission.”