China has released a new list of items banned for export to North Korea, following a new round of United Nations sanctions and complaints from President Donald Trump that Beijing was not doing enough to pressure its communist neighbor.
A statement from the Commerce Ministry late Wednesday said the items included dual-use technologies that could aid the North's programs to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as the missiles to deliver them.
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While largely comprising specialty chemicals and rare alloys, the list also included computer software, machinery, high-speed cameras, aircraft engines and six-axle truck chassis.
The ban on "dual-use measures related to weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery" takes effect immediately, the announcement said.
There was no evidence that the extensive list of items covered by the ban was prompted by anything other than the U.N. Security Council resolution passed in November in response to the North's missile test in September.
However, the official Communist Party newspaper Global Times suggested the timing had to do with the upcoming week-long Lunar New Year holiday, a period during which North Korea last year staged a missile test and in 2013 held its third underground nuclear test.
The announcement "is also a warning for the North Korean side not to conduct another round of nuclear testing during China's Spring Festival this year," it quoted Yanbian University expert Jin Qiangyi as saying, using another term for the Lunar New Year.
China is the North's largest source of trade and aid, but has grown increasingly frustrated by Pyongyang's defiance of the U.N.'s demands to end missiles tests and the development of nuclear weapons.
Although generally dismissive of sanctions, Beijing has signed on to successive rounds under the U.N. Security Council, while continuing to advocate a resumption of six-nation nuclear negotiations hosted by China that have been on ice since North Korea withdrew in 2009.
Beijing's unique relationship with the North's hereditary dictatorship has generated expectations that it holds the key to ending the threat from Pyongyang, something Chinese officials and scholars call a vast exaggeration. China also firmly opposes any measures that could lead to the toppling of Kim Jong Un's regime, something it fears would lead to a massive wave of refugees crossing into China and the presence of South Korean and U.S. troops along its border.
Despite that, Trump complained in a tweet earlier this month that China "won't help with North Korea," even while it benefits from commercial links with the U.S.
Trump's nominee to be secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, has spoken in starker terms. He accused China of making "empty promises" on North Korea and warned of U.S. sanctions on Chinese companies found to be violating U.N. Security Council resolutions, recently beefed up to tighten restrictions on North Korean coal imports.
"If China is not going to comply with those U.N. sanctions then it's appropriate for the United States to consider actions to compel them to comply," Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month.
The U.S. is concerned that Pyongyang may already be able to arm short-range and mid-range missiles with atomic warheads, threatening U.S. allies South Korea and Japan, and American forces in each country.
Some experts believe the North is likely to have the capability to strike the U.S. mainland before Trump's four-year term is up.