China has reacted angrily to a US decision to impose sanctions on a Chinese bank, the Bank of Dandong, accused of laundering North Korean money. A foreign ministry spokesman urged the US to “stop wrongful actions” to avoid harming co-operation.
The US announced the move, as well as sanctions on a Chinese shipping company and two Chinese nationals, on Thursday. It said the blacklisting was aimed at cutting funds to North Korea’s weapons programs.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a news conference, the move was not a response to Chinese inaction on North Korea, saying: “This is not directed at China, this is directed at a bank, as well as individuals and entities in China.”
The UN has already imposed several rounds of sanctions on Pyongyang, but China is widely seen as the nation most able to impose economic pain on North Korea.
The sanctions mean that the Bank of Dandong will be barred from doing business in the US. Mr Mnuchin said that the US could impose more sanctions in the future.
The sanctions were announced as new South Korean President Moon Jae-in held talks with President Trump in Washington.
In a separate development, the US announced the sale of $1.42bn (£1.09bn) worth of arms to Taiwan, the first such transaction under the Trump administration. US arms sales to Taiwan always anger Beijing because it considers the self-governing island part of its territory. In a statement, the Chinese embassy in Washington called on the US to revoke its decision, saying China had “every right to be outraged”.
Earlier in the week, the US also placed China on its list of the worst offenders in human trafficking and forced labor – the first major move by the new administration over Beijing’s human rights record.