China has been limiting trade with North Korea since April.China’s northeastern province of Jilin saw its imports from North Korea plunge nearly 15 percent in the first quarter of 2016 from a year ago, data showed Wednesday, dealing a fatal blow to the neighboring country’s moribund economy.Since April, Chinese imports of North Korean coal – worth 40 percent of total export earnings – have begun to return to normal levels. In May, imports of anthracite were up 1.7 percent on the low of the previous month but still down 15 percent on May 2015, KITA data showed. China’s imports of anthracite rebounded nearly 22 percent, coming out of the trough of April and May, and were down just 5.6 percent on May 2015. While China is trying to cap and reduce coal use – consumption fell for the second year in a row in 2015 – its demand for anthracite to produce metals remains high.China’s total coal imports slumped 30 percent last year as the government emphasized other cleaner energy sources.Other than the missile launch, one could suspect this is also a signal against the killing of Kim Jong-nam, who lived under Chinese protection.Yonhap: China’s commerce ministry said Saturday it will suspend the import of North Korean coal, apparently in response to the latest provocations made by Pyongyang. “As coal takes up a significant portion of Pyongyang’s trade with China, the decision is anticipated to have a significant impact on North Korea,” an expert on China said.
The Chinese province’s imports from North Korea are estimated to have dropped further in the second quarter when the sanctions began to bite, they added.Allowing a coal cap to pass at the UNSC indicates their willingness to adhere to the ruling.In imposing a ban for 2017, China probably took into account rapidly rising coal prices and a probable rush by companies to frontload sales ahead of the cap to predict that the coal cap would be breached far earlier in the year. Between domestic producers and North Korean ones, China obviously prefers the former.This, in turn, pushed down the domestic price of coal, also by 30 percent, and as a result, imports were less competitive and shipments to China dropped.But while Chinese coal imports from key suppliers Australia and Indonesia plummeted last year, there was one source country that recorded a 25-percent surge in shipments: North Korea. “This type of coal is in shortage and, in fact, North Korea is the largest supplier of this type of coal to China,” she said.
In yet another so-called “strong signal”, China’s commerce ministry said on Saturday it won’t be importing any more coal from North Korea for the rest of the year.