Beijing has told Washington not to link the North Korean crisis to bilateral trade, saying they are “two completely different domains.”
It comes after US President Donald Trump criticized China for “doing nothing” over Pyongyang’s continued missile tests.
Over the weekend, President Trump tweeted he was “very disappointed” with China, saying it “does nothing for us with North Korea, just talk.”
The statement came just two days after Pyongyang launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), claiming the rocket could hit the entire US mainland.
“Our foolish past leaders have allowed them [China] to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade,” Trump wrote.
China hit back on Monday, urging Washington to keep the two issues separate.
“We think the North Korea nuclear issue and China-US trade are issues that are in two completely different domains. They aren’t related.
They should not be discussed together,” Chinese Vice-Commerce Minister Qian Keming told journalists, as cited by the South China Morning Post.
The official also said that the situation on the Korean Peninsula requires joint efforts, and that Beijing is hopeful of more “balanced” development of trade with Washington.
“China will continue to work together with the international community to promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and China is also willing to work with the US side for more balanced development of the bilateral trade relationship,” Qian said.
It’s not the first time China’s economy has faced issues due to Pyongyang.
In late June, Washington announced sanctions against a Chinese bank for allegedly laundering money for North Korea.
It also imposed restrictive measures on two Chinese citizens and a shipping company for allegedly helping Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.
Japan, a major US ally in the region, has also sanctioned Chinese firms for their connections with North Korea.
Earlier, US lawmakers suggested prohibiting banks and business entities from cooperating with the North, threatening to exclude them from the US economy.
While the US has repeatedly urged China to use its influence on North Korea as its sole economic lifeline, Beijing blasted the so-called “China responsibility theory,” calling for cooperation instead of shifting responsibility.
The volume of business between China and North Korea rose more than 10 percent in the last half a year, according to Reuters citing Chinese customs spokesman Huang Songping.
Both the US and China consider North Korea a “top security threat” as Pyongyang continues its missile and nuclear programs despite calls to halt them.
The US backs more restrictive measures and military deterrence, while Beijing is mostly seen as urging restraint from any potential provocation.
China believes that the only way to solve the North Korean crisis is through diplomacy.
However, the recent Chinese-Russian “double freezing” initiative – suggesting North Korea stop missile and nuclear activities, while the US and its allies halt war games in the region – was rejected by the US.