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China-North Korea fuel trade falls ahead of Trump visit


China’s fuel imports and exports to North Korea dropped significantly in September from a year earlier, the latest data shows. Figures from Chinese customs show China imported 511,619 tonnes of coal from North Korea during the month, down 71.6 per cent from the year before. Meanwhile, it exported 90 tonnes of petrol to the country, down 99.6 per cent, and 16 tonnes of diesel, a drop of 91.8 per cent. The release of the figures on Tuesday comes at a sensitive time in Sino-US relations, with US President Donald Trump expected to visit China next month. US officials said Trump would use the trip to pressure Beijing to exert greater influence on North Korea, however, any such efforts could backfire. Some observers said Beijing would resist pressure and respond by telling Trump to stop threatening Pyongyang with military force. Shi Yinhong, an international relations expert at the Renmin University in Beijing, said China had almost exhausted what it could do regarding sanctions on North Korea and had limited choices if Trump were still unsatisfied. “Compared to the past, China now cannot recede a lot regarding the North Korea issue. Beijing might [move a bit on trade] to please Washington, aiming to ease China-US frictions”. Sun Xingjie, a North Korean affairs expert from Jilin University, said Beijing had no other options to sanction North Korea, barring a full oil embargo – a move that would risk angering the regime of Kim Jong-un and might even bring the whole region to war. “Beijing and Washington have completely different solutions to the North Korea issue, but what Washington has called for might not be suitable for Beijing, especially the military options”, Sun said. “Cooperation on the North Korea issue might not be the central theme during the talks, rather, it’s the differences that will be heatedly discussed. Beijing will ask Trump not to threaten the Kim regime with military options and try to persuade Trump back to the negotiating table”, Shi said.

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