China: Trump bank ban statement 'not consistent' with facts

U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement that Beijing told its banks to stop dealing with North Korea is "not consistent with the facts," a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Friday, but he gave no indication what steps China might be taking.

The spokesman, Lu Kang, said Beijing complies with U.N. Security Council resolutions. The council has told member countries to ban most activity abroad by North Korea's banks in response to its nuclear and missile tests.

Asked at a regular briefing about Trump's comment, Lu said, "As far as I know, what you have mentioned just now is not consistent with the facts."

Lu gave no explanation but added, "in principle, China has always implemented the U.N. Security Council's resolutions in their entirety and fulfilled our due responsibility."

China wants to stop North Korea's nuclear and missile development but has warned against pushing the government of Kim Jong Un so hard it collapses or hurting ordinary North Koreans.

China accounts for about 90 percent of North Korea's foreign trade. Beijing has cut off imports of coal, iron ore, seafood and other goods in line with U.N. sanctions.

Trump praised China on Thursday for what he said was instructions to its banks to cut off business with North Korea. He said the action "was a somewhat unexpected move and we appreciate it."

U.S. officials would not confirm that. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he spoke at length with the head of China's central bank but "I am not going to comment on confidential discussions."

The Chinese central bank would not take questions by phone and did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.

Also Thursday, Trump issued an executive order expanding the Treasury Department's ability to target anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea and to ban them from the U.S. financial system.

It imposes a 180-day ban on vessels and aircraft that have visited North Korea from visiting the United States.

Trump announced the measures as he met the leaders of South Korea and Japan, the nations most immediately imperiled by North Korea's threats of a military strike.