China announced sweeping sanctions against North Korea on Monday, extending an import ban to iron, iron ore and seafood. The Ministry of Commerce said the ban, which also covered coal, would take effect on Tuesday. The order extends the existing ban on coal imports to next year and is expected to hit the North Korean economy hard. The latest sanctions are open-ended and will stay in place as long as North Korea continues with its nuclear and missile programmes. But observers said it was not clear how effective it would be in curbing the reclusive state’s nuclear ambitions. How US sanctions against North Korea could affect Chinese banks The UN Security Council approved tough sanctions against Pyongyang on August 6 in response to North Korea’s two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month. It came after China announced in February that it would ban coal imports from North Korea for the rest of this year, complying with an earlier UN resolution. As a result, China’s imports from North Korea fell 13 per cent to US$800 million in the first half. Just 10 days elapsed between the UN resolution and China’s adoption of the latest sanctions, compared with 90 days between the earlier UN resolution and the coal ban in February. Zhang Huizhi, a northeast Asian studies specialist at Jilin University, said the situation now was much more urgent and “Beijing apparently hopes to ease the escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula”. “It may be considered effective if the latest sanctions can have an immediate effect on North Korea’s trade revenue. But North Korea has usually remained defiant and this is unlikely to force Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions,” Zhang said. Meet China’s new point man to handle North Korean affairs Zhang Liangui, an international relations professor at the Central Party School, said the latest ban would slash Pyongyang’s foreign trade revenue but there was still a big question mark over its effectiveness. “Considering its track record, I doubt the North Korean regime will back down and return to the negotiating table because such limited economic sanctions will have little effect, let alone force its top leader to change his course,” Zhang Liangui said. Beijing’s announcement comes after days of increasingly bellicose rhetoric between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Xi urges restraint from Trump in phone call on North Korea crisis On Saturday, President Xi Jinping urged Trump to avoid “words and deeds” that could worsen tensions on the peninsula. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, is also in Asia to try to lessen the risk of miscalculation on the peninsula. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in a regional forum last week that China would pay a price for implementing the sanctions, given China’s traditional economic ties with North Korea.