China and the United States have agreed to strengthen financial sanctions against the North Korean regime. The move is nearly unprecedented for Beijing, which has long served as Pyongyang’s most important ally and trade partner.
Diplomats at the United Nations Security Council on Thursday confirmed the draft resolution, which Chinese and American diplomats spent months negotiating.
In the past, China has been slow to punish North Korea for its military provocations. Even after the regime’s first nuclear weapon tests, China agreed only to ban weapons transfers to North Korea. Beijing has also limited sanctions against those involved in North Korea’s nuclear program.
But China-North Korean relations may have taken a sharp turn after North Korea announced it had tested its first hydrogen bomb in January. Recently, Chinese banks began freezing North Korean accounts and halting cash transfers to the regime.
Still, it’s unclear how hard China is now willing to press North Korea. According to the New York Times, US diplomats had originally proposed a long-draft version of the resolution, which outlined provisions “that would never fly with Beijing.”
It’s also not clear if the resolution means China will move to cease North Korean ships from bringing coal and iron ore to Chinese ports. The US has called for a partial ban on North Korean ships entering ports throughout the globe.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, China accounts for 70 percent of North Korean trade and support.
Nonetheless, the White House said in a statement that China and the US had agreed on “a U.N. Security Council resolution that goes beyond previous resolutions.”