Photo: AFP / Fred Dufour

Following reports this week that Chinese ships were violating UN sanctions on North Korea, China was quick to push back on the allegations. On Wednesday, while the foreign ministry questioned the veracity of the reports, Chinese defense ministry spokesperson Ren Guoaiang was less equivocal.

“The situation you have mentioned absolutely does not exist,” Ren was quoted as saying.

The US president had something to say about that. Trump began a tweet Thursday with the words “caught RED HANDED,” in an apparent reference to the earlier media reports of Chinese involvement in illicit ship-to-ship oil transfers.

Trump added in a separate interview with the New York Times on the same day that “I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war,” implying his trade policy was tied to China’s cooperation on North Korea.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying addressed the issue for a second day in a row at a regular press briefing on Friday, following Trump’s complaint.

“The Chinese side has conducted immediate investigation. In reality, the ship in question has, since August, not docked at a Chinese port and there is no record of it entering or leaving a Chinese port,” Hua was quoted as saying. She added that the media reports in question “did not accord with facts.”

“If, through investigation, it’s confirmed there are violations of the U.N. Security Council resolutions, China will deal with them seriously in accordance with laws and regulations.”

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