Beijing informs Seoul of actions against North

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Beijing informs Seoul of actions against North

China has communicated with South Korea about its stronger stance to punish the North over a recent series of bellicose actions, a senior official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“It is certain that China has officially issued guidelines to sanction North Korea,” a senior presidential official said Monday. “Our government is corresponding [with the Chinese government] over the measures, such as suspending oil shipments to the North and reinforcing inspections at the China-North Korea border.”

Reports were increasingly made that China has stepped up its economic sanctions on the North after Pyongyang conducted the third nuclear test on Feb. 12, 2013, but it is rare for a South Korean government official to confirm China’s reinforced economic sanctions on the North.

Last week, Reuters reported that China did not export any crude oil to the North in February based on customs data, marking the first absence of deliveries since early 2007.

Reports were also made that China stepped up its inspections at the border with North Korea.

“It’s hard for me to say definitely that China gave its word [about sanctions on the North],” the source said. “We conveyed to China that the latest United Nations Security Council resolution should be implemented smoothly and that we want China to play a role to change the North.”

“The messages were delivered mainly by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he said. “And when President Park Geun-hye spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, we conveyed our hope and position.”

On March 20, Park and Xi spoke on the phone and discussed bilateral and regional issues, including the escalated tensions on the peninsula due to the North’s increasingly aggressive moves.

At the time, Park explained her government’s North Korea policy to Xi and sought Beijing’s support to persuade Pyongyang to resume dialogue.

China accounts for over 85 percent of North Korea’s trade. Economic sanctions by its biggest economic benefactor and longtime political ally could deal a serious blow to the North.

“China is showing a responsible attitude to implement the UN Security Council resolution this time,” the Blue House official said. “And the North probably feels it clearly.”

Another senior South Korean official also said Seoul needs to thoroughly assess Beijing’s recent moves.

“We need to examine if this is the beginning of a grand change in China’s North Korea policy,” he said.

He also said it is important to pay attention to the background of the latest remarks made by China and the United States.

“We want to see full implementation of the resolution,” China’s UN Ambassador Li Baodong said shortly after the UN Security Council adopted fresh sanctions on the North over its nuclear test.

U.S. President Barack Obama also said on March 13 that there were signs that China was recalculating its policy toward the North.

Meanwhile, the Park administration is considering allowing additional private assistance to North Korea.

Last week, the Unification Ministry approved the Eugene Bell Foundation, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, to provide 678 million won ($605,708) worth of medical aid to Pyongyang.

“We received several more applications from non-governmental groups,” said a senior Blue House official.

“Although there are still threats by the North, we need to separate the civilian humanitarian aid from other issues.”

“After the humanitarian aid, the two Koreas can talk,” he said. “And it will be possible for [Seoul] to lift [some sanctions],” he said.

By Kang Tae-hwa, Ser Myo-ja []
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