Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng said on Tuesday that China is determined to execute sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council against North Korea.
The minister said this few days after the Chinese government suspended all coal imports from North Korea; Coal is North Korea’s main export item.
In 2016, the country sold 22.5 million tonnes of non-lignite coal to China, up 14.5 per cent from 2015.
He said that the ban on North Korean coal imports will be effective until the end of the year and represents the enactment of a Security Council decision from November 2016.
“China’s decision, which came soon after North Korea announced a new ballistic missile launch, shows China is determined to take a stand against its neighbour’s actions and prevent further instability in the region.
“China knows it is a critical moment to take a stand and alert North Korea that it is serious this time,” Cheng Xiaohe, Professor of International Relations at Renmin University said.
The Chinese government understands that once North Korea conducts a continental missile test, it could trigger military action from the U.S., Cheng said.
The coal import ban is likely unrelated to the recent alleged murder of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged brother of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un, said Yang Xiyu who is the former director of the Korean Peninsula Office within China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
However, the Foreign Ministry has said it is closely following the investigation into the death of a person China had hosted and protected.
The UN Security Council on Dec. 1, 2016 imposed new sanctions on North Korea aimed at cutting its annual export revenue by a quarter, after Pyongyang carried out its fifth and largest nuclear test so far in September.
The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution to slash North Korea’s exports of coal, its biggest export item, by about 60 percent with an annual sales cap of 400.9 million dollars, or 7.5 million metric tonnes, whichever is lower.
The U.S.-drafted resolution also bans North Korean copper, nickel, silver and zinc exports – and the sale of statues. Pyongyang is famous for building huge, socialist-style statues which it exports mainly to African countries.
North Korea rejected the resolution as yet another conspiracy masterminded by the United States to deny its sovereignty.