The Trump administration may impose new sanctions on small Chinese banks and firms within weeks for not being more strict in their trade with North Korea, two senior U.S. officials told Reuters Thursday.
The timing and scope of the economic sanctions will depend on how China responds to this increased pressure during an upcoming meeting, an official told Reuters.
The threat on Chinese firms comes after North Korea successfully launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4. The Trump administration has continuously urged Beijing to pressure its neighbor on its missile tests, and the new sanctions would specifically target smaller companies with connections to North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, an official told Reuters.
Larger companies would not be affected, at least initially, by the sanctions, an official explained.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said Thursday in a press briefing that the ongoing iron ore trade between China and North Korea – which hasincreased by 10.5 percent since the start of this year – does not violate either the U.S. or United Nations' sanctions against Pyongyang.
"China's stance of staying committed to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is firm and clear, and it will continue to implement the relevant Security Council resolutions in a comprehensive, accurate, faithful and strict manner," Geng said.
"The maintenance of normal economic and trade exchanges between China and the DPRK does not violate Security Council's resolutions," he continued.
Senior U.S. and Chinese officials are scheduled to meet and talk about China's trade with the U.S. and North Korea in Washington Wednesday. Meanwhile, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has been trying to persuade Russia and China to join in on a U.N. Security Council resolution that would implement stiffer sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear missile program.