Chinese diplomatic analysts believe further nuclear tests by North Korea could push Beijing over the edge, prompting an oil embargo that would deal a devastating blow to Pyongyang’s stability.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Fox News that he had been informed that “China would be taking sanctions actions on their own,” should Pyongyang conduct another nuclear test.
“Crude oil is very likely to be included as part of new U.N. sanctions if North Korea continues with its provocative nuclear tests, and China will almost certainly endorse such an effort,” Sun Xingjie, an expert on North Korea from Jilin University said on the matter.
International sanctions against North Korea have been in place for the past several years, with the most recent United Nations-backed round targeting the country’s shipping network. A Chinese oil embargo would likely debilitate Kin Jong-un’s government.
“Instead of an oil embargo of just one or two months, which is unlikely to have a major impact on North Korea’s strategic oil reserves, we are talking about a halt in Chinese crude oil supplies for at least six months. That would be a real nightmare for Kim,” said Sun.
The expert said Beijing would likely require a mandate from the U.N. to take new actions against Pyongyang absent further nuclear activity.
Gasoline prices in North Korea jumped by as much as 83 percent this week on the back of reports that China is mulling over crude sanctions for the unruly neighbor.
While China has historically supported—above all—the stability of the Pyongyang regime as a means of avoiding a refugee crisis should the political system there collapse, now it is putting equal weight on regime stability and the denuclearization of that same regime.