China says it will stop all coal imports from North Korea starting from Sunday and for the whole of 2017, amid growing tension on the Korean Peninsula after recent missile tests by Pyongyang last week.
The Ministry of Commerce of China, in a public notice in conjunction with the customs authorities of the country on Saturday, said the decision was taken to implement resolution of the UN Security Council. The UN security Council imposed some of the toughest sanctions against the North Korean regime after North Korea has ignored an earlier UN ban, which was introduced after the launch of a nuclear warhead in September 2016.
"The import of coal mined in North Korea would be suspended for the remainder of this year," reads the statement posted on the Ministry's website. Coal is the major export of North Korea and is an important source of foreign exchange for its fragile economy. A large part of the exported coal of North Korea comes to China, its only major ally on the world stage.
North Korean economist Lee Ki-sung, researcher at the Economics Institute of the Academy of social Sciences, believes that the ban of coal will not have much effect. "We export a good amount of coal, but we do not export very much," he said. According to him, the export of other raw materials such as magnesite and graphite, used in the production of smartphones is "very important" for the world's major economies. North Korea supplies more than half of these two types of raw materials in the world, Lee said.
North Korea conducted a successful test of 12 February, the new average long-range ballistic missiles, Pukguksong-2. China disagreed with the launch and joined the other members of the UN Security Council, condemning Pyongyang's actions.
Beijing remains the largest trading partner of Pyongyang, providing economic and political lifeline for an increasingly isolated regime.
China regards North Korea as a strategic buffer between itself and South Korea, which has a significant US military presence. China also fears a potential refugee crisis on its doorstep, if the regime in Pyongyang will suddenly collapse.
sections: Economics, World News, Accidents