China’s trade with sanctions-riddled North Korea increased more than 10 percent in the first half of the year from last year, a Chinese official said Wednesday.
China’s customs spokesman Huang Songping said China’s trade with North Korea rose by 10.5 percent to $2.55 billion in the first six months of 2017. While imports from North Korea dropped 13.2 percent to $880 million in the period, exports to North Korea rose 29.1 percent to $1.67 billion, Huang said.
"As neighbors, China and North Korea maintain normal business and trade exchanges," he said.
Huang also said the exports were driven by textile products and other traditional goods not on the U.N. embargo list.
Being its largest ally, Beijing has been under pressure from the U.S. to do more to rein in North Korea, according to Reuters.
President Trump denounced China’s trade with North Korea last week, saying it grew almost 40 percent in the first quarter and questioned how much it was doing to help counter the growing threat from Pyongyang.
While China has contended it is doing nothing wrong by continuing normal trade operations with the isolated regime, U.S. is reportedly preparing to go after Chinese banks accused of funneling cash to North Korea.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that recent unsealed court filings show that the White House is ready to constrict cash flow to North Korea. The Justice Department pointed to “offshore U.S. dollar accounts” associated with a handful of companies linked to Chinese national Chi Yungpeng.
The Justice Department said the Chi’s network hid transactions which helped fund North Korea’s military and arms programs, the newspaper reported. While the network is not under U.S. sanctions, analysts believe can be cutoff the same way a separate Chinese firm last year.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is also said to be preparing to unilaterally tighten sanctions on North Korea.
The U.S. circulated a draft resolution that would impose new sanctions on North Korea following its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, two U.N. diplomats told the Associated Press on Monday.
The resolution has been circulated to China, as well as the three other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – Russia, Britain and France, the diplomats said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.