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A North Korean restaurant in Dandong, China. Many North Korean-connected businesses in China are believed to be involved in food service or trading.
Politics

China shuttering North Korea-linked businesses

Beijing signals to US a commitment in enforcing UN sanctions

BEIJING -- Chinese authorities are shutting down North Korean-connected businesses established in the mainland, in accordance with recently adopted United Nations sanctions.

This action comes ahead of a visit this week by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is expected to press Beijing to take a tougher line on Pyongyang and its nuclear weapons program.

On Thursday, China's Ministry of Commerce and the State Administration for Industry and Commerce said joint ventures formed by North Korean individuals or groups must close within 120 days of Sept. 12 local time, when the U.N. Security Council unanimously passed the latest sanctions regime.

Also targeted are businesses established jointly by Chinese enterprises and North Korean interests outside China. The order calls on relevant agencies to carry out the closures.

Although the exact nature of the North Korean-linked businesses are murky, it is assumed that a large portion engage in trading or managing restaurants. These companies are an important source of foreign currency for the hermit state.

If China vigorously carries out the shutdowns, "the sanctions' effectiveness will be significant," said a source close to diplomatic channels.

Ever since North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test Sept. 3, China has been busy implementing sanctions. On Saturday, the commerce ministry announced export restrictions on petroleum products, as well as a total import ban on textiles, one of North Korea's staple products.

In addition, Beijing launched unilateral sanctions on the financial front. Under orders from the People's Bank of China, major mainland banks have stopped providing most services to North Korean nationals and corporations.

Tillerson, who departs the U.S. on Thursday and ends his China trip on Sunday, will lay the groundwork for U.S. President Donald Trump's state visit in November. Discussions will also focus on adding more pressure on North Korea.

However, China's Communist Party will reorganize leadership in a twice-a-decade congress that begins Oct. 18. Because of the sensitive timing, officials are reluctant to slap North Korea with harsher sanctions that might destabilize the neighbor.

China also seemingly does not want to harm bilateral relations with the U.S. ahead of the key party congress. The business closure announcement just before Tillerson's arrival appears to go toward that end.

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