China announced today that it will limit oil exports to North Korea under UN sanctions over its nuclear and missile development, further cutting support from Pyongyang's last major ally and trading partner.
Exports of refined petroleum to the North will be limited to 2 million barrels per year and sales of liquefied natural gas banned completely effective 1 January, China's commerce ministry said.
China doesn't disclose details of trade with the isolated North, so it was not immediately clear how large the possible reduction might be.
However, AFP reports from Pyongyang that petrol prices have gone up in the wake of United Nations sanctions restricting exports of oil products. Retail prices have gone up around 20 per cent in two months, the agency saw in the capital.
Earlier this month the UN Security Council imposed its eighth set of sanctions on the North following its sixth nuclear test, which Pyongyang said was a hydrogen bomb. North Korea also launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in July that appeared to bring much of the US mainland into range.
China will also ban textile imports from the North, the ministry said. Textiles are one of the North's last major sources of foreign revenue following repeated rounds of UN sanctions under which Beijing cut off purchases of coal, iron ore, seafood and other goods.
China accounts for some 90 per cent of the North's trade, making its cooperation critical to any efforts to derail Pyongyang's development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
Chinese leaders were for long the North's diplomatic allies but express increasing frustration with the government of Kim Jong-un. They have supported the latest rounds of UN Security Council sanctions but are reluctant to push Pyongyang too hard for fear the government might collapse. They also argue against doing anything that might hurt ordinary North Koreans.