China’s announcement good first step, but not strong enough to make a real difference

China’s announcement Saturday that it will limit petroleum exports to North Korea is good news. It is not a breakthrough.

For months, U.S. officials have sought more cooperation from Beijing in pressuring North Korea to pull back on its development of missiles and nuclear weapons. Such assistance is critical if North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is to be reined in.

Saturday’s announcement was that China will ship no more than 2 million barrels of refined oil a year to North Korea. It will suspend shipments of liquefied natural gas.

But look at the fine print. While North Korea relies almost exclusively on China for oil and gas, it receives only about 2.2 million barrels of refined petroleum now. The cut is less than 10 percent. There are no limits on crude oil.

Plus, there will be no curbs on the amount of non-liquefied gas sent to the rogue nation.

Kim will merely force his people to absorb the pain of China’s limited action. Neither he nor his military machine will suffer.

China’s action was no more than a public relations ploy. It is better than nothing, of course, but it calls for renewed pressure on Beijing to do more about its ally to the south.