U.S. Imposition of Direct Sanctions on Hongxiang Contributes to Deepening China Conflict

By Hong Soon-do, Beijing correspondent, AsiaToday -The clash between China and the U.S. is escalating as the U.S. decided to impose direct sanctions on a Chinese company in connection with North Korea's nuclear and missile programs on Monday. If this is the case, the conflict between the two countries might sharpen, and this could lead to deepening U.S-China rift over North Korea sanctions.

2016-09-27-1474977449-7409613-2016092701002553200145861.jpg [The entrance of Hongxiang Group, the parent company of Hongxiang Industrial Development Company, which will face U.S. sanctions. The company has been shut down recently./ Source: search engine Baidu]

According to sources in Beijing on Tuesday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury had officially blacklisted Hongxiang Industrial Development Company Ltd and four of its executives, including the firm's founder, Ma Xiaohong. The department also moved to seize 25 bank accounts owned by Hongxiang and related companies. In fact, the U.S. did what the Chinese government had to do instead.

Such immediate move by the U.S. doesn't seem to make any problem since it followed provisions of the U.N. Resolution 2270, which placed stricter sanctions on North Korea in March. China should be willing to accept it happily as the U.S. legally applied a secondary boycott included in Resolution 2270 for the first time. China doesn't seem to be unhappy about it on the surface.

However, if we take a look at real U.S. intentions, it might be a different story. First, the U.S. seems doubtful about China's will to enforce North Korea sanctions. Besides, the U.S. seems convinced that China won't be the first to actively enforce North Korea sanctions in the future. Otherwise, there is no reason for the U.S. to apply a secondary boycott on Hongxiang unusually fast.

Obviously, China might be unhappy about this. It might react strongly against the move. Besides, if the U.S. continues to apply a secondary boycott on Chinese companies, it might even refuse to join UN in tightening sanctions on North Korea. However, China is in a difficult position where it cannot ignore the eyes of the international community. The fact that China arrested Hongxiang Group chairman Ma Xiaohong for investigation and summoned 30 officials involved in the case is not irrelevant with the situation. But if the U.S. keeps making rude moves with a suspicious eye on China's real intention, China could possibly stop its collaboration with the U.S. on North Korea emphasizing the livelihoods of North Korean residents. On the other hand, the United States should inevitably press China considering the presidential election in November. The plain fact is that the North Korea sanctions that have been consistent is beginning to turn around.