Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Chinese universities are taking steps to limit the number of North Korean students in the country, and may be rejecting students seeking to major in physics or material science and engineering.
Recruiters at Chinese colleges told the South China Morning Post they are following orders from the central government in restricting or turning away North Korean students and have placed currently enrolled students under surveillance.
"For those already on campus, we can't send them back home, but each of them is closely watched and followed by security personnel, or through technical methods, to prevent them from obtaining sensitive materials," one college official in Beijing said.
The actions are being taken at a time when China is defending its efforts to curb North Korea's nuclear weapons program at the United Nations General Assembly.
Beijing's foreign ministry said Wednesday Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian perceptions in the international community of China not doing enough to solve the North Korea nuclear crisis are "wrong," South Korean news service News 1 reported.
Last week, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had said he would plan to impose financial sanctions against Chinese institutions if Beijing violates international embargo agreements.
China has condemned North Korea's nuclear provocations, but may be facing strong pushback from Pyongyang.
An enrollment official at Harbin University of Science and Technology said the school has received diplomatic complaints from Pyongyang for turning down "each and every" North Korean applicant.
"Some candidates were very angry that their applications for Chinese government scholarships were turned down. Complaints were filed to their embassy in China and the embassy people rang [us], questioning whether our rejection was discrimination based on nationality," he said.
According to the Post, China began a program geared toward training North Korean scientists in 2013.
Beijing may also be preparing for tough trade negotiations with the United States, after U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Monday China presents an "unprecedented" threat to the "world trading system."
Chinese state tabloid Global Times condemned Lighthizer's comments on Tuesday.
"China appears to be pictured as a super bully in the harsh words of senior U.S. officials. But is it really the case?" the editorial read.