Beijing on Thursday claimed it had fulfilled its UN obligations to limit imports of North Korean coal, despite trade data from Chinese customs showing otherwise.
Speaking at a regular foreign ministry press briefing, spokesperson Hua Chunying implied China’s December imports of North Korean coal were not in breach on UN resolutions intended to reduce trade in the DPRK’s most valuable export commodity.
“Competent authorities of China issued a statement on 9 December, immediately after the adoption of Resolution 2321 by the Security Council, ordering the suspension of coal imports from the DPRK until 31 December 2016,” Hua said.
“The Chinese side have taken measures in line with the requirements of the resolution and fulfilled its own international obligation.”
But the claim is directly at odds with figures provided to the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) by Chinese customs authorities.
In late November, the UN Security Council (UNSC) passed its latest resolution, which capped imports of DPRK coal. The resolution outlines a yearly quota, but also limited trade for the remainder of 2016 to “$53,495,894 or 1,000,866 metric tons, whichever is lower.”
“The Chinese mouthpiece was confronted with evidence of a violation of a U.N. sanctions resolution China voted for eight weeks ago. When asked about that evidence in a clear, blue question, she gave a vague, red answer,” Joshua Stanton an attorney and author of the One Free Korea blog told NK News.
“China’s obligation under Resolution 2321 does not end with issuing a statement and then forgetting about it.”
Beijing’s Ministry of Commerce did issue a ban on shipments of North Korean coal arriving in China after December 11, and warned companies to pay attention to the UN measures later in the same month.
But so far, the warnings appear to have gone unheeded, while the country’s own trade data showed little sensitivity to the new restrictions.
Customs figures show Chinese traders imported over 2 million tonnes of coal in December, up from 1.9 million the previous month. North Korea’s received $168 million for the commodity, a figure over three times that outlined in Resolution 2321.
If the data is accurate, it implies that coal traders on both sides worked especially hard during the first nine days of December, or that trade continued as normal despite the embargo from Beijing’s Ministry of Commerce and the UNSC.
The coal cap in resolution 2321 was added after previous attempts to limit the commodity’s export stalled. An earlier resolution passed in March called on member states to stop importing coal if the revenues could be linked to the DPRK’s weapons programs.
But a “livelihood” exception in the resolution allowed coal trade to continue, with Chinese imports even hitting record levels in August last year.
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Featured Image: Beijing Skyline by Francisco Anzola on 2011-10-10 03:23:44