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Alex Wong, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of North Korea, has accused Beijing of circumventing sanctions aimed at convincing Kim Jong-un’s nation to give up its nuclear weapons. President Donald Trump has piled sanctions on North Korea after efforts at diplomacy failed to prevent the country from pushing forward with its development of nuclear missiles. In 2017, the United Nations (UN) passed sanctions limiting North Korean crude oil and refined petroleum product imports to 500,000 barrels per year and banned the export of food, machinery and electrical equipment among other measures.
Mr Wong claimed China had continued to host at least 20,000 North Korean labourers in violation of UN bans.
In addition, the deputy claimed the US spotted Chinese ships carrying coal and other sanctioned goods into North Korea in spite of laws prohibiting it on 555 separate occasions.
Mr Wong spoke to Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies about the alleged violations and claimed “on none of these occasions (…) did the Chinese authorities act to stop these illicit imports.
He then added China currently hosts at least two dozen North Korean representatives connected to Pyongyang’s weapons programs.
The deputy officials then blasted China for “increasingly” allowing its companies to conduct trade with North Korea on a variety of sanctioned goods.
He said: “In no other country do we see this breadth and depth of continuing illicit commercial activity with North Korea, the scale of which puts China in flagrant violation of its obligations.
“They are seeking to revive trade links and revenue transfers to the North, thereby ensuring Chinese reach into the North’s economy.”
Mr Wong then announced the State Department will launch a website for people to provide information on North Korean sanction evasions, with up to $5 million available in rewards.
Closing his remarks, Mr Wong said: “Chinese leaders are asking us to build the frame of a house, even furnish it, without laying the foundation first.”
But China has lashed out in response to Mr Wong’s allegation, claiming Beijing has always abided by the sanctions.
Hua Chunying, Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman, said: “Under the current situation, all parties should spend more time and energy to promote the political settlement process of the peninsula issue and pay more attention to the negative impact of sanctions on the population and their livelihood.
“With the continuing spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, we once again call on the Security Council to initiate discussions on the reversible clause of the resolution as soon as possible and make the necessary adjustments to the sanctions, especially in the area of people’s livelihoods, to create conditions for a political resolution on the peninsula.”
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China has historically enjoyed close relations with North Korea, but agreed to UN sanctions on their neighbour after Pyongyang approved nuclear tests in defiance of Beijing.
Beijing also strongly objected to unilateral sanctions imposed on North Korea from the US under Mr Trump’s administration.
Earlier this year, Kim Jong-un ended diplomatic relations with the US over the continued sanctions, with foreign minister Ri Son Gwon slamming Washington for its hypocrisy.
He said in July: “Never again will we provide the US chief executive with another package to be used… without receiving any returns.”
Mr Trump and Kim Jong-un historically hosted peace talks in Singapore in 2018, with the US President also becoming the first American leader to meet with a North Korean leader in the Demilitarised Zone in 2019.
North Korea has continued to push forward with its nuclear weapons development, unveiling its biggest ever intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in October.
The ICBM was unveiled in a military parade marking the 75th anniversary of the country’s ruling Worker’s Party.
US military experts have warned that North Korea’s new missile system is capable of reaching any point in America once it becomes operational.
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