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North Korea

China suspends North Korean coal imports for three weeks in line with UN sanctions

Latest sanctions cap coal exports next year at 7.5 million tonnes - a drop of 62 per cent from 2015

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 December, 2016, 6:45pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 December, 2016, 10:49pm

China announced on Saturday that it was suspending coal imports from North Korea for three weeks, in line with the latest United Nations sanctions against the hermit state.

“After the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2321 ... China is suspending North Korean coal imports,” the government said in a statement.

The three-week suspension starts on Sunday and ends on December 31, according to the statement.

The Security Council passed the resolution on the international sanctions against Pyongyang on November 30 in the wake of the North’s September 9 nuclear test.

It limits North Korea’s coal exports next year to 7.5 million tonnes, or just over US$400 million, down 62 per cent on 2015.

The cap represents a fraction of the North’s current annual exports to China, the isolated country’s sole ally and its main provider of trade and aid.

China imported 1.8 million tonnes of coal worth US$101 million from North Korea in October alone, according to the most recent figures available on the Chinese Customs website. The volume was up nearly 40 per cent year-on-year.

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Under previous sanctions, the Security Council authorised the purchase of coal from North Korea provided revenues were not used to finance Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.

However, the UN did not specify any assessment criteria, which allowed Beijing to increase its imports considerably while saying it was acting in good faith.

Between March and October, 24.8 million tonnes of coal was imported, three times the annual limit now allowed by the UN.

Although Beijing has traditionally protected Pyongyang diplomatically, believing that Kim Jong-un’s regime is preferable to its collapse, it has grown frustrated by its neighbour’s defiance.

Last week, China’s chief negotiator on Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, Wu Dawei, said China remained opposed to unilateral sanctions against North Korea taken without the approval of the UN Security Council.

Wu said in a meeting with South Korean officials on Friday that the six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear programmes that had been stalled since 2009 should be resumed. The talks involved North and South Korea, China, the United States, Japan and Russia.

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“The Chinese side opposes the imposition of sanctions taken outside the framework of the Security Council resolution 2321,” Wu was quoted as saying by the foreign ministry.

China also demands that South Korea “give weight to China’s concerns” about the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, missile system, which is intended to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, Wu said, according to the ministry.

Additional reporting by Associated Press