China Bans Coal Imports from North Korea

The Chinese Commerce Ministry made a surprise announcement Sunday that it is suspending all coal imports from North Korea through the rest of the year.

The decision is likely to be a financial blow to North Korea as China is demonstrating its dissatisfaction with Pyongyang’s continued nuclear tests.  The latest incident was last week when a new medium-range ballistic missile was successfully tested over the Sea of Japan.  Additional provocation occurred this week when Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of leader Kim Jong-un, was in a Malaysian airport.

In 2016 coal was North Korea’s largest export with 40% of the country’s coal exports being directed to China.  In 2014 it exported $1.03 billion worth of coal.

China has traditionally been reluctant to take a firm stance on North Korea fearing that any change could cause instability in the region, but the latest provocations along with increasing pressure from the international community appear to be frustrating the Chinese and convincing them that Kim Jong-un poses a real threat to the delicate equilibrium in the region.