Beijing — China tightened limits on critically important oil supplies to North Korea on Friday and stepped up other trade restrictions under intensified U.N. nuclear sanctions.

Beijing will limit exports of crude oil and refined petroleum to the North and ban sales of steel, industrial machinery and vehicles, the Commerce Ministry announced. It said imports of North Korean food, machinery and some other goods will be banned.

China accounts for nearly all Pyongyang’s energy supplies and trade, making its enforcement key to sanctions aimed at discouraging leader Kim Jong Un from pursuing nuclear and missile technology.

The Security Council ratcheted up sanctions on the North following its ballistic missile test on Nov. 29.

Beijing was long Pyongyang’s diplomatic protector but has supported the sanctions out of frustration with what Chinese leaders see as its neighbor’s increasingly reckless behavior.

Chinese leaders have resisted previous U.S. demands for an outright oil embargo but went along with the latest limits.

Analysts see North Korea’s need for Chinese oil as the most powerful economic leverage against Pyongyang. But Chinese leaders have warned against taking drastic measures that might destabilize Kim’s government or send a wave of refugees fleeing into China.

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