China says new North Korea sanctions not meant to harm 'normal' trade

BEIJING (Reuters) - New U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea, imposed after its fifth and largest nuclear test in September, are not intended to harm “normal” trade with the isolated country nor affect civilians, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO - A North Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of North Korea in Geneva October 2, 2014. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

The sanctions are aimed at cutting North Korea’s annual export revenue by a quarter.

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution to slash North Korea’s biggest export, coal, by about 60 percent with an annual sales cap of $400.9 million, or 7.5 million metric tonnes, whichever is lower.

China, believed to be the only country buying North Korean coal, would slash its imports by some $700 million compared with 2015 sales under the new sanctions, diplomats said.

China is North Korea’s most important economic and diplomatic backer, despite its anger at Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests, and Beijing frequently comes under suspicion for not properly enforcing sanctions.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China has always enforced U.N. resolutions responsibly, and that would be the case with the new sanctions.

“Resolution 2321 formulates new measures, showing the resolve of the Security Council, and also points out they must avoid creating adverse consequences for North Korean civilian and humanitarian needs, and are not intended to create negative effects on normal trade,” he said.

Geng repeated a call for a return to talks, and also said all sides should avoid doing anything to worsen the situation.

“China opposes the deployment of the THAAD anti-missile on the peninsula, and urges relevant parties to immediately stop this process,” he added, speaking at a daily news briefing.

China says the planned U.S. deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system in South Korea would seriously affect China’s security and do nothing to get North Korea back to the table.

China also believes the United States, South Korea and Japan should not simply rely on bringing Chinese pressure to bear on North Korea to get it to give up its nuclear weapons.

The Global Times, an influential tabloid published by the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, said in an editorial that China could not break the deadlock alone.

“China holds that all the parties should assume their due responsibility. But the U.S. and South Korea think they are fully right and justified to point fingers at others for the current situation on the Korean Peninsula,” it said.

“The U.S. has imposed sanctions on many countries in the world, but wielding sticks without any carrots mostly amounts to nothing.”

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie