China on Friday denied reports it had been illicitly selling oil products to North Korea in violation of U.N. sanctions, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he was not happy that China had allowed oil to reach the isolated nation.
Trump said on Twitter on Thursday that China had been “caught RED HANDED” allowing oil into North Korea and that would prevent “a friendly solution” to the crisis over Pyongyang’s development of nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States.
In a subsequent New York Times interview, Trump explicitly tied his administration’s trade policy with China, North Korea’s neighbour and lone major ally, to cooperation in resolving the North Korea standoff.
“I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war,” he said. “If they’re helping me with North Korea, I can look at trade a little bit differently, at least for a period of time. And that’s what I’ve been doing. But when oil is going in, I‘m not happy about that.”
South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper this week quoted South Korean government sources as saying that U.S. spy satellites had detected Chinese ships transferring oil to North Korean vessels about 30 times since October.
U.S. officials have not confirmed details of this report but a U.S. State Department official said Washington had evidence of vessels from several countries, including China, engaged transhipping oil products and coal.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters she had noted recent media reports, including suggestions a Chinese vessel was suspected of transporting oil to a North Korean vessel on Oct. 19.
”In reality, the ship in question has, since August, not docked at a Chinese port and there is no record of it entering or leaving a Chinese port,“ Hua said adding that the reports ”did not accord with facts.
“China has always implemented U.N. Security Council resolutions pertaining to North Korea in their entirety and fulfils its international obligations. We never allow Chinese companies and citizens to violate the resolutions,” Hua said.
“If, through investigation, it’s confirmed there are violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, China will deal with them seriously in accordance with laws and regulations.”
South Korea said on Friday that in late November it seized a Hong Kong-flagged ship, the Lighthouse Winmore, suspected of transferring oil to North Korea. The ship’s registered manager, Lighthouse Ship Management, is in the Chinese port of Guangzhou.
A South Korean Foreign Ministry official said the ship transferred as much as 600 tons to the North Korea-flagged Sam Jong 2 on Oct. 19 in international waters between China and the Korean peninsula, on the order of its Taiwan-based charterer, Billions Bunker Group Corp.
A spokesman for Taiwan’s presidential office, Alex Huang, said the firm was not incorporated in Taiwan and China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said she did not have any information about the matter.