Though the sources stressed that no final decisions had been made, they said China, North Korea’s main trading partner, was crucial to pressuring Pyongyang to prevent it from achieving the capability of striking the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile.
During a UN Security Council meeting last week, Haley threatened secondary sanctions if the council could not agree on new sanctions–though she did not cite China by name.
In late June, Washington imposed secondary sanctions on two Chinese citizens and a shipping company for helping North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and accused a regional Chinese bank, the Bank of Dandong, of laundering money for Pyongyang.
Fresh U.S. sanctions would be aimed at sending a message to Beijing of Washington’s resolve to act further on its own.
But they would stop short, at least for now, of the kind of broad “sectoral” sanctions Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, secured through unilateral and international action against Iran to pressure it into negotiations to curb its nuclear program.
Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to Washington, said on Monday that secondary sanctions were “not acceptable.”
“Such actions are obstructing cooperation between China and the U.S. and lead to questions about the real intentions of the U.S. side,” according to a transcript of his remarks from the Chinese embassy.
The threat of further secondary sanctions on Chinese companies could complicate next week’s U.S.-China Comprehensive Economic Dialogue, an important forum for narrowing differences between the world’s two biggest economies.
While preparations for fresh sanctions are moving forward, tangible new steps by China could prompt Washington to put the measures on hold, the U.S. sources said.
“They’d have to show they’re really serious,” the second official said. “We’re not going to be paralyzed into inaction.”
U.S. and UN sanctions have so far failed to deter Pyongyang from pursuing its nuclear and missile programs.
Trump pledged repeatedly during his election campaign to get tough on Chinese trade practices deemed unfair to the United States, but his rhetoric softened after the friendlier-than-expected April summit with Xi.
Shortly after their meeting, Trump said he had told Xi that China would get a better trade deal if it reined in North Korea.
But in recent weeks, Trump has fired off tweets denouncing China’s trade with North Korea and cast doubt on whether Beijing was doing enough to counter Pyongyang.
Reflecting growing concern about North Korea on Capitol Hill, two members of the US Senate Banking Committee, Democrat Chris Van Hollen and Republican Pat Toomey, announced on Wednesday they would soon introduce legislation for North Korea modeled on the Iran secondary sanctions laws passed by Congress.