China will suspend all imports of coal from North Korea, effectively slicing the country’s exports by about half. The move, announced by China’s commerce ministry on Saturday, is believed to form part of the country’s efforts to implement United Nations sanctions against North Korea. The Ministry of Commerce said the ban would start February 19 and be effective until December 31.
The ban coincides with a report in The Washington Post that preparations are underway for senior North Korean representatives to visit the United States for talks with former American officials, a sign that Pyongyang may see a potential opening with the Trump administration.
China’s move to ban the imports effectively slices North Korea’s exports in half and came with a message for the US and its allies: it’s time to do a deal. Chinese officials say pushing North Korea into a corner won’t work as Kim Jong-un’s regime will keep developing its nuclear capability until it feels safe.
According to Shi Yongming, an associate research fellow at the Foreign Ministry-run China Institute of International Studies: “Beijing still wants to bring [Kim Jong Un] to a negotiation table – and that’s where the US role lies – because the collapse of the regime is right now outside China’s realistic capacity to handle.”
China has backed the Kim dynasty since it took charge after the Korean War, in part to prevent having a US ally on its border. With the international community enforcing sanctions on North Korea after a series of nuclear tests, China now accounts for more than 90 per cent of its total trade. Coal sales accounted for more than 50 per cent of North Korea’s exports to China last year, and about a fifth of its total trade, according to Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
[The Sydney Morning Herald]