Beijing’s Ministry of Commerce on Saturday announced it would not import any North Korean coal between December 11 and 31, in compliance with the UN’s most recent resolution.
The new measures introduced a cap on the North’s coal shipments, limiting member states from importing more the $53,495,894 or 1,000,866 tons for the remainder of 2016.
“To implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 2321, according to the People’s Republic of China’s Foreign Trade Law, imports of coal produced in North Korea temporarily will be stopped,” a short announcement on the ministry’s website reads, as translated by Reuters.
But the ministry added that coal which had already been shipped before December 11 and was in transit would be exempted. The NK News ship tracker shows there are several North Korean vessels currently docked in Chinese coal terminals, many of which arrived recently.
China imported on average 1.8 million tons per month between January and October this year. If shipments continued at these levels for November and December, Beijing’s temporary ban would cut approximately 1.2 million tons of its monthly import.
The figure represents over one percent of the DPRK’s annual coal export total to China.
However, while Chinese trade numbers are updated each month, they are usually on a six to eight-week delay, so December’s exact imports won’t be released until late January.
Resolution 2321 also bans member states from importing more than $400,870,018 or 7,500,000 metric tons of North Korea coal beginning January 1, 2017.
The cap builds on earlier attempts to limit the DPRK’s coal exports, though a “livelihood” exception included in the UN’s previous resolution allowed much of the trade to continue.
Figures provided by China’s customs agency showed that coal did drop in March after the UN passed Resolution 2270, but quickly resumed in the following months.
It’s unclear if Beijing will adopt a similar method to its North Korean coal imports next year. The UN’s most recent resolution does not provide a clear methodology for how member states should implement the ban, and Beijing is traditionally patchy on sanctions enforcement.
“(Much) depends on the signals the new (U.S.) administration sends to Beijing. If it sends a strong message that it’s serious about imposing costs on Chinese power companies and steel mills that break the sanctions, those buyers will de-risk their North Korean sources, regardless of the government’s attitude,” Joshua Stanton, an attorney and author of the One Free Korea blog told NK News.
If adhered to, the export limit would cut the North’s coal revenues from China by approximately 60 percent. The DPRK’s current coal exports hover between $80 – 100 million per month, netting roughly $1 billion yearly. In 2016, North Korean exports hit $400 million and 7.5 million tons by May.
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Featured Image: Beijing Skyline by Francisco Anzola on 2011-10-10 03:23:44