Wed, Sep 21, 2016 - Page 6 News List

US, China in talks over North Korea

ILLEGAL OPERATIONS:Authorities are investigating a Chinese firm for long-term involvement in what they said were ‘serious economic crimes’ in support of Pyongyang

Reuters, NEW YORK

US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) on Monday agreed to step up cooperation in the UN Security Council and in law enforcement channels after North Korea’s fifth nuclear test, the White House said.

China and the US are also targeting the finances of Liaoning Hongxiang Group, a Chinese conglomerate headed by a Chinese Communist Party cadre, that the Obama administration thinks has a role in assisting North Korea’s nuclear program, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

UN diplomats say the two countries have started discussions on a possible UN sanctions resolution in response to the nuclear test earlier this month, but Beijing has not said directly whether it will support tougher steps against North Korea.

Obama met Li on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly session in New York.

“Both leaders condemned North Korea’s Sept. 9 nuclear test and resolved to strengthen coordination in achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, including by invigorating cooperation in the United Nations Security Council and in law enforcement channels on North Korea,” a White House statement said.

China is isolated North Korea’s most important diplomatic backer and its biggest trading partner.

It has been angered by Pyongyang’s repeated nuclear and missile tests and signed on to increasingly tough UN sanctions, but it has said it believes such steps are not the ultimate answer and called for a return to talks with North Korea.

Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) told his Japanese counterpart last week China opposes “unhelpful” unilateral sanctions on North Korea, but will work within the UN to formulate a response.

Washington has pressed Beijing to do more to rein in North Korea.

The US has said it is willing to negotiate with the North if the country commits to get rid of its nuclear weapons, which Pyongyang has refused to do.

The US Department of Justice is preparing to announce legal action as early as this week against Chinese firms suspected of providing financial assistance to Pyongyang, the Journal reported, citing officials familiar with the matter.

It said department prosecutors visited Beijing twice last month to make their Chinese counterparts aware of alleged criminal activities being committed by Liaoning Hongxiang Industrial.

A social media post last week for the police in Liaoning, the northeastern border province of China, said they were investigating the firm’s alleged long-term involvement in “serious economic crimes” and that relevant suspects were cooperating.

A report by the Asian Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul and C4ADS in Washington said it identified more than US$500 million in trade from January 2011 to September last year between the North and Liaoning Hongxiang Group, which states on its Web site that it trades heavily with the North.

The figure includes more than US$360 million in imports from North Korea by one subsidiary, Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Co, an industrial machinery and equipment wholesaler.

“While no judgement is being made on the final use of these funds, trade at this volume is of particular note. By one estimate, this amount would have been almost enough to both fund North Korea’s uranium enrichment facilities, and to design, make and test its nuclear weapons,” the report said.

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