China's imports from North Korea have seen a drastic drop in the past four months and it "has strictly abided" by United Nations Security Council resolutions, a customs official said.
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On July 4, Pyongyang announced the successful launch of its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), the Hwasong-14, which traveled 933 kilometers (580 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan. The United States slapped an initial round of sanctions on Chinese firms who help prop up Pyongyang in late June - a departure from a traditionally cautious approach to ratcheting up pressure on North Korea's main source of support.
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Despite Washington's calls for action, trade between China and its neighbour increased 10.5 percent to $2.5 billion in the first six months of the year compared to the same period last year, including a 29.1 percent jump in exports. Two close neighbors of North Korea, Japan and South Korea, are also USA treaty allies, meaning that if North Korea used military force against them, the US would be obligated to defend them.
On June 30, the US took steps to penalize a Chinese bank, a Chinese shipping company and two Chinese citizens it claimed worked to help North Korea evade sanctions.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said China's cooperation on North Korea was "uneven" when he spoke to lawmakers in mid-June, saying USA officials were concerned about actions by both the government and other entities in China.
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Experts at 38 North estimated in April that North Korea could have as many as 20 nuclear bombs and could produce one more each month.
"Should the UN Security Council adopt another 'resolution on sanctions, ' this will trigger corresponding measures", KCNA cited the official as saying.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated China's opposition to unilateral sanctions outside the framework of the United Nations and that China has been fully enforcing UN resolutions. Last year, sales of coal accounted for more than 50 percent of North Korean exports to China and about a fifth of the country's total trade. The Security Council approved a resolution in November that exempted transactions in iron and iron ore intended "exclusively for livelihood purposes".
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North Korea's biggest need is to pay for fuel, since the country doesn't come close to producing enough oil. Almost two-thirds of Americans (64%) say the US should use military force to defend its allies in Asia in the event that they get into a serious military conflict with North Korea.