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China is increasingly finding itself in a position to consider imposing an oil embargo, a last-resort measure to deter North Korea from its nuclear weapons ambitions, after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to toughen sanctions against the North Korean regime, according to experts quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
On Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce’s (R-CA) Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act, a bipartisan bill that strengthens sanctions targeting North Korea’s Kim Jong Un regime.
The legislation – which needs Senate approval before being sent to President Trump to sign into law – aims to expands sanctions to deter North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, targets North Korean shipping and use of international ports, and requires the administration to determine whether North Korea is a state sponsor of terrorism.
“This bill gives the administration a powerful tool to cut off North Korea’s funding by going after those who do business with the regime,” Chairman Royce said.
One of the countries doing business with North Korea is China, as it supplies nearly all of the regime’s crude oil, diesel, and jet fuel.
In February, China suspended all imports of coal from North Korea as part of its effort to implement United Nations Security Council sanctions aimed at stopping the Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic-missile program.
Then, in April, reports suggested that China’s patience with North Korea was wearing thin as Pyongyang continued to conduct nuclear missile tests, and that Beijing was considering a suspension of its crude oil exports to its neighbor should North Korea conduct a sixth nuclear test.
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Analysts concur that a possible suspension of China’s oil exports would have a major impact on North Korea, but they are more inclined to believe that China would not use its biggest punitive measure as leverage over North Korea—a total oil embargo—if Pyongyang is carrying out low-intensity provocations.
According to experts quoted by Yonhap, tougher U.S. sanctions would affect China, but it would be difficult for Beijing to completely ignore them. Although a total oil embargo is unlikely, analysts see some kind of curtailment of Chinese exports to North Korea as probable.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.