Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

In Latest Rebuke, China Severs a Financial Lifeline to N. Korea

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

In Latest Rebuke, China Severs a Financial Lifeline to N. Korea

Article excerpt

The Bank of China's action appeared to be the strongest public Chinese response yet to North Korea's willingness to brush aside warnings and push ahead with its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

The state-controlled Bank of China said Tuesday that it had halted all dealings with a key North Korean bank in what appeared to be the strongest public Chinese response yet to North Korea's willingness to brush aside warnings from China and other countries and push ahead with its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Chinese analysts said that the Bank of China's move against the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea carried clear diplomatic significance at a time when the Obama administration has been urging China, the North's closest ally, to limit its longtime support.

The move came on the same day that President Park Geun-hye of South Korea met with President Barack Obama at the White House. Both leaders emphasized what they said was their complete solidarity in the face of a series of provocations from the North.

"The days when North Korea could create a crisis and elicit concessions, those days are over," Mr. Obama said in a news conference with Ms. Park. She said in turn that the two had made clear that "we will by no means tolerate North Korea's threats and provocations."

The Chinese banking announcement also came as North Korea was reported to have removed two medium-range missiles from a launching facility on its eastern coast, in a possible sign of de-escalation following rhetorical attacks in recent months on both South Korea and the United States. Those verbal attacks were some of the fiercest ever from the North, but they largely ended in mid-April, as international condemnations rose.

The Bank of China's announcement was a salient expression of Chinese pique with its North Korean neighbor. Earlier, China had stepped up its inspections of cargo for North Korea, slowing cross- border commerce. China provides the North with much of its trade and nearly all its fuel.

Ruan Zongze, a former Chinese diplomat in Washington who is now a vice president of the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, said that the Chinese government was responding not to American pressure but to a recent United Nations resolution -- supported by Beijing in a stinging show of displeasure with Pyongyang -- that imposed further sanctions on North Korea after its nuclear and ballistic missile tests.

He said that the Chinese government had encouraged state- controlled enterprises to follow the resolution in their dealings with North Korea and that China would "surely follow what the U.N. requires."

The Bank of China's action dovetails with a longstanding American effort to target the North Korean government's access to foreign currency.

The United States imposed sanctions in March on the North Korean bank after accusing it of involvement in nuclear proliferation, calling on China at the time to stop conducting "business as usual" with North Korea. …

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