US reserves right to punish China firms working with NKorea

WASHINGTON – The United States reserves the right to punish Chinese companies that violate U.N. sanctions on North Korea if Chinese authorities don’t take action, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

Top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Russel, said that since most of North Korea’s illegal activities are conducted through neighbouring China, companies are “going to have to tighten up and shut down operations.” The U.S. is looking to co-operate with international partners in cutting revenue sources for the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear test explosions and more than 20 missile launches this year, intensifying concern that it is closer to having a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach America.

The Justice Department last month unsealed criminal charges against a China-based company, Dandong Hongxiang Industrial Development Company, and four of its executives for conspiring to evade sanctions, and barred them from business dealings with the U.S. Chinese authorities have also said they were investigating Hongxiang on suspicion of unspecified “serious economic crimes.”

“To the extent that the Chinese authorities themselves take action against North Korea malefactors or Chinese companies that are collaborating with North Korea then there’s no cause for action by the United States or others,” Russel told reporters.

“Where they don’t take action, the United States reserves the right under U.N. Security Council resolution 2270 or under our own national authorities to take action,” he said, referring to the most recent sanctions resolution against North Korea, adopted in March.

Russel said while there’s “frustration and differences of view” between Washington and Beijing, they do co-operate on North Korea. The U.S. is constantly “scanning the horizon” for evidence of sanctions violations and makes a point of sharing with China first any information they have about “bad actors” there, he said.

China is the North’s traditional ally and main trading partner.