April 5, 2016 | By: JOE MCDONALD
China on Tuesday banned most imports of North Korean coal and iron ore, the country’s main exports, in a significant increase in pressure on the North under U.N. sanctions against its nuclear and missile tests.
China buys an estimated two-thirds of impoverished North Korea’s exports, making Beijing’s cooperation essential for trade penalties approved by the U.N. Security Council last month to succeed.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has intensified nuclear activities in defiance of U.N. sanctions, conducting his country’s fourth nuclear test explosion in January and test-firing missiles.
In a sign of growing frustration with its ally, China signed onto Security Council sanctions last month that include mandatory inspections of cargo bound to and from North Korea. The council called on all countries to “redouble their efforts” to enforce the sanctions.
The latest Chinese restrictions ban most imports of North Korean coal, iron ore, gold, titanium, vanadium and rare earths — a key revenue source for the mineral-rich North. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimated North Korea’s 2013 exports at $4.4 billion, with 65 percent of that going to China and the bulk of it made up of mineral sales.
China’s Ministry of Commerce said some imports for civilian use will be allowed so long as they are not connected to nuclear or missile programs. It gave no indication of how large purchases covered by that exception might be.
The announcement also banned sales of jet fuel to North Korea but said aircraft would be allowed to refuel during flights to China.
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