Washington (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will further pressure Chinese President Xi Jinping in talks next week to take tougher measures against North Korea, as the United States compiles information for possible new sanctions on Chinese banks working with Pyongyang.
Senior administration officials say Trump will try to convince Xi when they meet in Beijing to squeeze North Korea with steps such as limits on oil exports, coal imports and financial transactions.
It is the latest attempt by Trump to have China, North Korea’s only major ally, rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons ambitions but it is far from clear if Xi, who has just consolidated his power at a Communist Party congress, will agree.
China says its leverage over Pyongyang is exaggerated, and points to its support in the U.N. Security Council for recent sanctions on North Korea as evidence that it is trying to curtail the isolated nation’s nuclear and missile tests.
North Korea this year conducted a powerful nuclear test detonation and has test-fired intercontinental ballistic missiles that, if perfected, could reach the U.S. mainland. Trump has vowed to prevent North Korea gaining that capability.
Two U.S. officials said the threat of additional U.N. and other economic sanctions on North Korea is another option to solicit greater cooperation from China, by playing on Beijing’s concerns that deeper poverty in North Korea could prompt an exodus of refugees across its border.
The officials said the United States and its allies have been collecting detailed information on Chinese bank transactions with North Korea to try to identify institutions with the “most egregious” records of doing business with Pyongyang.
The objective, the officials said, is to craft a proposal for escalating sanctions on Chinese financial and other entities that stops short of sanctioning the People’s Bank of China central bank.
Washington so far has mostly held off on new sanctions against Chinese banks and companies doing business with North Korea, given fears of retaliation by Beijing and possibly far-reaching effects on the world economy.
In a brief statement on Thursday formally announcing the visit from the Chinese end, the country’s foreign ministry said China was ready to work with the United States to achieve “important results” for Trump’s visit. It did not elaborate.