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China bans coal imports from North Korea

China has banned coal imports from North Korea until the end of 2017, the Ministry of Commerce said on Saturday, after a week in which Pyongyang tested an intermediate-range ballistic missile and carried out an assassination in Malaysia.

Kim Jong Nam the brother of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un, was killed by two female assailants in the Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday. He had been living under Beijing’s protection in Macau, the gambling enclave and former Portuguese colony.

The death of the older Mr Kim follows the 2013 execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was believed to favour closer ties with China.

China is North Korea’s main trading partner, and coal is one of its main imports from the country. Although China has co-operated with UN sanctions following past provocations from North Korea, it also argues against completely isolating the reclusive country for fear a crisis could send millions of refugees flooding across the border. 

This is not China’s first ban on coal from its impoverished neighbour. In December, to formally comply with UN sanctions, it banned coal from North Korea for the remainder of 2016 but exempted any coal already in transit. A sharp surge in Chinese coal prices in 2016 attracted 22.5m tonnes from North Korea, up 15 per cent from the year before. 

The short statement from the Ministry of Commerce said that the 2017 ban was in accordance with the UN sanctions announced last year. This time, it said the ban would include coal already in transit.

Additional reporting by Archie Zhang

@HornbyLucy

Via FT