U.S. backlists China bank to lean on North Korea
The Trump administration blacklisted a small Chinese bank accused of illicit dealings with North Korea on Thursday, escalating the pressure on Beijing to rein in its wayward ally amid increased signs of frustration among President Trump and his top advisers with China’s diplomatic efforts.
The move came just hours before Mr. Trump hosted new South Korean President Moon Jae-in, whose policy of outreach to the North has already bumped up against the harder new U.S. line against Pyongyang, for a dinner and talks at the White House. It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders.
The Treasury Department declared the Bank of Dandong a “primary moneylaundering concern,” proposing to sever it entirely from the U.S. financial system, pending a 60-day review period. Although Mr. Trump’s treasury secretary said the move didn’t target China, it comes a week after the president lamented that Beijing’s promise to help with North Korea “has not worked out.”
Mr. Trump had been leaning on President Xi Jinping to help stop the North’s development of nuclear weapons before they can threaten the U.S. homeland. A main focus of the coordination has been getting China to fully enforce international sanctions intended to starve North Korea of revenue for its nuclear and missile programs. The U.S. action is likely to anger China, which handles about 90 percent of North Korea’s external trade, and whose banks and companies are said to provide Pyongyang access to the U.S.-dominated international financial system.
The sanctions bar Americans from doing business with Bank of Dandong, which is based in a northeastern Chinese city on the North Korean border that serves as a gateway for trade with the isolated nation. The U.S. also slapped sanctions Thursday on a Chinese shipping company and two Chinese people that it said have facilitated illegal activities by North Korea.
Greeting Mr. Moon at the White House on Thursday, Mr. Trump congratulated the South Korean leader on his recent electoral victory and said the two would have “tremendous discussions” about dealing with the dangerous regime in North Korea.
“I know you’ve been discussing with our people some of the complexities of North Korea and trade and other things, and we’ll be discussing them all as we progress — and it could be very well late into the evening,” said Mr. Trump.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the U.S. still wants to work with Beijing on combating the North Korean threat.
“We are in no way targeting China with these actions,” Mr. Mnuchin told a White House news briefing.
The punitive steps were presaged by a tweet from Mr. Trump last week reflecting dissatisfaction with Beijing’s efforts.
“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!” Mr. Trump tweeted on June 20.
The move met with bilateral support on Capitol Hill, with both House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, California Republican, and Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer of New York praising the move.
“These sanctions are a small, but positive step, and should be the beginning of a tougher posture when it comes to China and its treatment of North Korea,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. “The best way to get China to help us deal with North Korea is not to offer them sweeteners, but to be tough. Playing economic hardball will help Americans workers, and strengthen us in the region at the same time.”