Pursuant to sanctions imposed by the United Nations, China on Thursday ordered North Korean-owned businesses to close, cutting off an important source of foreign revenue for Pyongyang over its continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
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North Korean businesses and ventures with Chinese partners must close within 120 days of the U.N. Security Council's Sept. 11 approval of the latest sanctions, according to the Ministry of Commerce. That would be early January.
North Korean companies operate restaurants and other ventures in China, helping to provide the North with foreign currency. North Korean laborers work in Chinese factories and other businesses.
China is North Korea's main trading partner, making Beijing's cooperation essential to the success of sanctions aimed at stopping the North's pursuit of weapons technology.
China accounts for an estimated 70% of Pyongyang’s total trade, including essential goods and services like food and energy, according to 2016 data from the Congressional Research Service. In 2015 North Korea imported $2.95 billion worth of goods from China, and exported $2.83 billion there, according to data from the Observatory of Economic Complexity.
Earlier this week, the United States announced a new round of sanctions against more than two dozen North Korean nationals in other countries and a handful of banks.
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China, one of five permanent Security Council members with veto power, supports the latest sanctions but doesn't want to push North Korea too hard for fear Kim's government might collapse.
Chinese leaders argue against doing anything that might hurt ordinary North Koreans. They agreed to the latest sanctions after the United States toned down a proposal for a total ban on oil exports to the North.
Chinese officials complain their country bears the cost of enforcing sanctions, which have hurt businesses in its northeast that trade with the North.
The latest round of U.N. sanctions bans member countries from operating joint ventures with North Korea, most of which are in China.
They also ban sales of natural gas to North Korea and purchases of the North's textile exports, another key revenue source. They order other nations to limit fuel supplies to the North.
China, which provides the bulk of North Korea's energy supplies, announced Saturday it would cut off gas and limit shipments of refined petroleum products, effective Jan. 1. It made no mention of crude oil, which makes up the bulk of Chinese energy supplies to North Korea and is not covered by the U.N. sanctions.
China also has banned imports of North Korean coal, iron and lead ore, and seafood since early September.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.