President Trump said Thursday that he is “very disappointed” with China for selling oil to North Korea, warning that such transactions would thwart a “friendly solution” to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programs.
“Caught RED HANDED - very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “There will never be a friendly solution to the North Korea problem if this continues to happen!”
The president also posted a video on Twitter showing that, 25 years ago, President Clinton predicted a diplomatic agreement would compel North Korea to give up its nuclear program. It also showed an interview with Mr. Trump 18 years ago warning that the U.S. needed to get tougher with North Korea.
“I’ve been saying it for a long, long time,” Mr. Trump tweeted.
China said Thursday that there had been no U.N. sanction-breaking oil sales by Chinese ships to North Korea, after a South Korea newspaper said Chinese and North Korean vessels had been illicitly linking up at sea to get oil to North Korea.
South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper this week quoted South Korean government sources as saying that spy satellites had detected 30 instances of ship-to-ship transfers to North Korean vessels since October.
A U.S. State Department official suggested on Wednesday that such transfers could be continuing.
“Ship-to-ship transfers … remain a concern as part of North Korea’s sanctions evasions activities,” the official said, while declining to provide details.
The U.N. Security Council last week unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea for a recent intercontinental ballistic missile test, seeking to limit its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil. The resolution seeks to ban nearly 90 percent of refined petroleum exports to North Korea by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year.
The U.S.-drafted resolution also caps crude oil supplies to North Korea at 4 million barrels a year and commits the Security Council to further reductions if Pyongyang conducts another nuclear test or launches another ICBM.
The Trump administration has led a drive to step up global sanctions on North Korea in response to Pyongyang’s efforts to develop nuclear-tipped missiles capable of hitting the United States. Mr. Trump especially has been urging Chinese President Xi Jinping to take stronger action to isolate North Korea economically.
Documents seen by Reuters this month showed Washington called on the Security Council to blacklist 10 ships for circumventing sanctions by conducting ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products to North Korean vessels or transporting North Korean coal.
China and Russia subsequently asked for more time to consider the proposal.
In September, the Security Council put a cap of 2 million barrels a year on refined petroleum products exports to North Korea.
China has consistently said it is fully enforcing all resolutions against North Korea, despite suspicion in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo that loopholes still exist.
Asked at a regular briefing whether Chinese ships were illegally providing oil to North Korean ships, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang reiterated that China, including the military, strictly enforced U.N. resolutions on North Korea.
“The situation you have mentioned absolutely does not exist,” Mr. Ren said, without elaborating.
It’s unclear whether the Chinese military has any role in sanctions enforcement.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.