China appears to be serious about its ban on North Korean coal, ordering Chinese trading companies to return millions of tonnes of coal back to its nuclear-obsessed neighbor.
In February, due to Pyongyang’s continued missile tests, China banned coal imports from North Korea for the rest of the year, cutting off a significant portion of the Hermit Kingdom’s foreign income. At the time, North Korea expert Stephan Haggard wrote that the ban could be “one of the most significant developments on the Korean peninsula” in over a decade — just as long as China was sincere about enforcing the sanctions.
China’s customs department signaled its sincerity on April 7th by issuing an order, telling trading companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes. Reuters reports that recently a fleet of North Korean cargo ships were loaded up with coal at Chinese ports before heading back home to the port of Nampo. One Chinese company said that it had 2 million tonnes of North Korean coal stranded at Chinese ports.
Of course, sanction or no, China still runs on coal. To make up the difference, China has started importing more coal from the United States, according to Reuters. A move that likely won’t please the Kim Jong-un regime. Already, North Korean state media has accused China of “dancing to the US tune.”
However, it is a happy development for US President and coal lover Donald Trump who tweeted yesterday that he had told Chinese President Xi Jinping that all China has to do to get a better trade deal with the US is to “solve the North Korean problem.”
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