Britain wants China to back oil sanctions against North Korea as punishment for its latest missile test.
The UK, the US and Japan are pushing Beijing to adopt the tough move to pile pressure on Kim Jong-un after his rogue regime fired a ballistic rocket over Japan this week.
Theresa May feared the pariah state’s nuclear weapons programme poses an “unprecedented threat to international security”, and Japanese PM Shinzo Abe warned an intercontinental ballistic missile could hit Europe.
Diplomats at the United Nations have been urging China – North Korea’s only regional ally – to support a fresh round of sanctions, including a ban on oil deals with Pyongyang.
China accounts for more than 90% of its international trade.
Beijing announced an import ban on coal, iron, iron ore and seafood from North Korea last month.
Revealing latest plans to rein in Kim, a No 10 source revealed: “We will have to work together in the UN Security Council to perhaps put forward a new resolution.
“But we could look at, for example, new areas of the economy.”
It is understood Mrs May and Mr Abe discussed potential oil sanctions during hours of meetings on the British PM’s three-day trade mission to Japan.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Tokyo, she renewed calls for China to get tough with its nuke-hungry neighbour.
She said: “We need to ensure it’s not just the words of condemnation but that action is taken.
“China does have a particular position in this.
“They have leverage on North Korea and I believe that we should be encouraging China to exercise that leverage, to do what we all want which is to ensure that North Korea is not conducting these illegal acts.”
Earlier this week, Donald Trump revealed his frustration with Beijing, tweeting: “The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!”
Mr Abe warned that Kim’s missiles could target European cities and posed a worldwide threat.
Speaking through a translator, he said: “That threat is felt not only by our country or Asia alone, it has become a global threat, including (to) Europe.
“North Korea will launch ICBM and the range would include almost the entire region of Europe.”
Missile experts calculated a North Korean ICBM launched in July flew 2,300 miles into space – thought to be the longest successful test in its history.
Experts said it could have a trajectory allowing it to travel 6,000 miles – putting London in range.
Meanwhile, mounting tension in the region saw two nuclear-capable American warplanes fly near the Korean peninsula today.
Supersonic B-1B bombers and four US stealth F-35B jets joined South Korean and Japanese fighter aircraft in exercises and demonstrations of strength.