China released a further list of goods banned for export to North Korea on Monday, saying the items could be used to build weapons of mass destruction, amid a stand-off between North Korea and the United States over Pyongyang’s weapons programmes.
China has released several such lists in recent years as North Korea steps up its nuclear and missile tests. China says it is doing its duty to help enforce the increasingly tough United Nations sanctions.
The latest, extremely technical, list of dual-use goods, or products that have both civilian and military use, comes after a confidential report by independent UN monitors that said North Korea violated UN sanctions to earn nearly US$200 million from banned commodity exports last year.
China’s Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on its website that the list was meant to comply with the requirements of new UN sanctions imposed last year.
The new list names dozens of banned items including air scrubbers for underwater use, equipment to simulate flying conditions for non-civilian aircraft and gas masks not for use by firefighters.
The list was jointly released with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, the China Atomic Energy Authority and the Customs Bureau.
It was effective immediately, the commerce ministry added.
China remains North Korea’s largest trading partner and sole major ally, though overall trade has fallen as the sanctions have taken effect.
Chinese analysts have regularly expressed concern that North Korea could collapse in chaos if Beijing’s policies become too harsh.
At the same time as saying it is fully committed to enforcing the sanctions, despite lingering doubts in Washington at China’s commitment, Beijing has also repeatedly called for a return to dialogue.
The announcement comes as tensions on the Korean peninsula have eased ahead of this month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea which start on Friday.
North Korea’s ceremonial leader would make an unprecedented visit to South Korea this week, officials said on Monday, as hopes grow for high-level inter-Korean talks during the Games.