China defends iron imports, stresses N Korea trade continues as normal

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After Trump publicly pressed Beijing to rein in economic support for the rogue regime, trade between China and North Korea grew more than 37 percent in the first quarter, a statistic available in April but which Trump didn't publicly acknowledge until last week.

Now, the Trump administration is reportedly considering a fresh round of sanctions against small Chinese financial firms and shell companies that conduct business with North Korea, two senior US officials told Reuters.

Imports fell 13.2 percent to $880 million in the six months to June 30 from the same period a year earlier, the customs bureau said Thursday.

China announced in February the suspension of coal imports from the North, striking a blow at a major source of income for the hermit state.

President Donald Trump last week criticized China for its ties with North Korea's government following the launch of a test missile, saying that China's economic interests undermined its ability to challenge President Kim Jong-un's totalitarian regime.

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China's exports to North Korea rose 29.1 percent in the first half of 2017, driven by consumer goods such as textiles that aren't on the sanctions list, Huang said. North Korean men who try to leave are likely to be rapidly identified as absent by their work units.

China insists none of its current trade with Pyongyang is in violation of global sanctions.

Trade between Beijing and Pyongyang during the past few months has not included any sanctioned content related to the provision of materials, nor has it helped to generate revenue for the DPRK's nuclear or ballistic missile programmes, Geng noted.

All coal imports from North Korea happened before Feb 18, and "this is a sign of China's implementing the UNSC resolutions", Huang said.

The US is considering adopting sanctions against Chinese firms for the nation's failure to take a harder stance on North Korea, reports ABC news.

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