US President Donald Trump has accused China of being caught "red-handed" selling oil to North Korea, saying such moves would prevent "a friendly solution" to the crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear program. Just two weeks ago, Trump credited China for its help in the USA -led pressure campaign against Pyongyang, including support for three U.N. Security Council resolutions this year - the latest last week - over the North's nuclear and missile tests.
"Caught RED HANDED - very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea", Trump tweeted.
The department noted that the two ships appeared to be illegally trading in oil from ship to ship to bypass sanctions.
China has commented on reports alleging that it exports oil to North Korean by saying that Beijing " completely and strictly" implements United Nations trade restrictions recently adopted against Pyongyang.
Last month, the Treasury Department sanctioned six North Korean shipping and trading companies and 20 of their vessels, and published photos of what it said was a North Korean vessel on October 19 possibly transferring oil to evade sanctions. However, the country exported no oil products to the North during the month of November.
A White House official and multiple National Security Council officials were unable to explain the President's tweet and did not respond to questions about whether he was referring to the recent reports from South Korea.
Washington says the full cooperation of China, North Korea's neighbour and main trading partner, is vital to the success of this effort, while warning that all options are on the table, including military ones, in dealing with North Korea.
It's unknown if China supplies crude oil to the North, but it's believed by industry insiders that China provides the cutoff nation 3.8 million barrels of crude oil each year through an "aging pipeline", Reuters reported. "This could be that". A ministry spokeswoman said Wednesday she had no information about the latest report, but said China has strictly enforced trade restrictions.
Hua questioned whether any country could make sure "not a single breach will happen", but noted: "We are taking a honest and serious attitude and forceful and effective actions".