China’s N Korea coal im­ports surge de­spite sanc­tions

The Myanmar Times - - International Business -

CHINA’S coal im­ports from North Korea have surged in re­cent months, rais­ing ques­tions about Bei­jing’s com­mit­ment to in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions in­tended to curb Py­ongyang’s nu­clear pro­gram.

As the iso­lated coun­try’s sole ally and main provider of trade and aid, Bei­jing’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the UN-im­posed re­stric­tions is cru­cial for their suc­cess.

But in Au­gust China im­ported 2.465 mil­lion tonnes of North Korean coal worth US$113 mil­lion, 60 per­cent more than in April when sanc­tions were im­posed and 35pc more than a year ago, ac­cord­ing to data on the Cus­toms web­site.

Im­ports of North Korean iron ore also rose, from 110,500 tons in April to 197,000 tons last month, data showed.

The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil in March agreed to im­pose sanc­tions on cer­tain North Korean ex­ports, in­clud­ing coal and iron. But it also said it would al­low trade to con­tinue for “liveli­hood” pur­poses – if the pro­ceeds did not go to­ward fund­ing Py­ongyang’s nu­clear pro­gram.

The UN did not set cri­te­ria for mak­ing that de­ter­mi­na­tion, leav­ing each coun­try to make its own de­ci­sion on the mat­ter.

In April China an­nounced it would place re­stric­tions on im­ports of both items, among oth­ers.

Trade with the world’s sec­ond­largest econ­omy is cru­cial for the iso­lated and im­pov­er­ished North, which has suf­fered reg­u­lar food short­ages and an out­right famine in the mid-1990s.

In 2015 China ac­counted for more than 90pc of North Korea’s $6.25 bil­lion in to­tal trade, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from South Korea’s state-run Korea Trade-In­vest­ment Pro­mo­tion Agency.

China’s to­tal im­ports from North Korea in Au­gust rose 16.7pc year-on-year to $291.3 mil­lion, Cus­toms data showed.

The fig­ures come just weeks af­ter North Korea tested its fifth and most pow­er­ful nu­clear de­vice.

China has said it “firmly op­poses” the test, but an­a­lysts be­lieve it has re­sisted tar­get­ing the North’s frag­ile econ­omy for fear of pro­vok­ing the regime’s col­lapse.

It fears this could prompt a flood of cross-bor­der refugees and ul­ti­mately the prospect of US troops sta­tioned on its bor­der in a re­uni­fied Korea.

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has en­gaged in a flurry of diplo­macy to try to per­suade China to use its lever­age with Py­ongyang. –

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