China yesterday began a suspension of all coal imports from North Korea for the rest of the year as it increases pressure on Pyongyang to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The ban is in line with United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed last November in response to North Korea’s fifth nuclear test two months earlier, China’s Commerce Ministry said in an online statement on Saturday.
China already banned coal imports from North Korea last April to comply with sanctions imposed by the UN and aimed at starving its neighbor of funds for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
But China made exceptions for deliveries intended for “the people’s well-being” and not connected to the nuclear or missile programs.
China is North Korea’s largest source of trade and aid and the suspension will deprive Pyongyang of a key source of foreign currency.
China’s decision came less than a week after North Korea’s latest missile test, as tensions escalate over the state’s defiance of UN resolutions.
The United Nations Security Council sharply castigated Pyongyang last Monday for the missile test a day earlier, describing it as a “grave violation” of UN resolutions and threatening “further significant measures.”
North Korea is barred under UN resolutions from carrying out ballistic missile launches or nuclear tests.
On Wednesday, Pyongyang defended the missile launch and slammed the UN Security Council condemnation.
North Korea blasted off a series of missiles and conducted two nuclear tests in 2016 in its quest to develop a weapons system capable of hitting the American mainland.
The latest rocket — claimed by North Korea to be able to carry a nuclear warhead — flew east for about 500 kilometers before falling into the Sea of Japan, according to South Korea’s defense ministry.
The Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions since North Korea first tested an atomic device in 2006.
China has urged a resumption of six-party talks with North Korea on its nuclear program, saying a “negative cycle” of nuclear missile tests followed by sanctions must end.
“Today, what we see is nuclear test, sanction, nuclear test and then sanction again,” said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“This negative cycle should not continue. Because the ultimate end result could be something that no one can bear. It’s a situation where everyone loses,” he told the Munich Security Conference on Friday.
Wang stressed that UN Security Council resolutions — including sanctions — against North Korea should be fully implemented, but added: “We cannot give up on seeking a resumption of talks.”
“On this point, the United States and North Korea … must quickly come to a political decision,” he said. “We hope and call on all parties to stop taking any action that would provoke tensions.”
North Korea quit the now-stalled negotiations aimed at curbing its nuclear weapons program in 2009, and soon afterwards carried out its second atomic test. The talks are hosted by China, and include South Korea, the United States, Russia, and Japan.
SOURCE: Shanghai Daily