BEIJING/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - China on Friday denied reports it has been illicitly selling oil products to North Korea, after U.S. President Donald Trump said he was not happy that China had allowed oil to reach the isolated nation.
Trump said on Twitter the previous day that China had been “caught” allowing oil into North Korea and that would prevent “a friendly solution” to the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program.
“I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war,” Trump said in a separate interview with The New York Times.
South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper this week quoted South Korean government sources as saying that U.S. spy satellites had detected Chinese ships transferring oil to North Korean vessels about 30 times since October.
U.S. officials have not confirmed details of this report.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters she had noted recent media reports including suggestions a Chinese vessel was suspected of transporting oil to a North Korean vessel on Oct. 19.
“The Chinese side has conducted immediate investigation. In reality, the ship in question has, since August, not docked at a Chinese port and there is no record of it entering or leaving a Chinese port,” Hua said.
She said she was not aware if the vessel had docked at the port in other countries but the relevant media reports “did not accord with facts”.
“China has always implemented U.N. Security Council resolutions pertaining to North Korea in their entirety and fulfils its international obligations. We never allow Chinese companies and citizens to violate the resolutions,” Hua said.
“If, through investigation, it’s confirmed there are violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, China will deal with them seriously in accordance with laws and regulations.”
In the New York Times interview, Trump explicitly tied his administration’s trade policy with China to its perceived cooperation in resolving the North Korea nuclear crisis.
“When I campaigned, I was very tough on China in terms of trade. They made — last year, we had a trade deficit with China of $350 billion, minimum. That doesn’t include the theft of intellectual property, O.K., which is another $300 billion,” Trump said, according to a transcript of the interview.
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