China banned all coal imports from North Korea starting Sunday, a move that steps up a prohibition Beijing enacted previous year and comes as recent actions by Pyongyang test relations between the two allies.
"If this Chinese central government policy is implemented on the ground, it will have an influence on North Korea's hard currency flow", said NK Pro senior analyst Chris Green about the development.
China announced in April a year ago that it would ban North Korean coal imports to comply with sanctions, but it made exceptions for deliveries intended for "the people's wellbeing".
Coal is the country's main export and is used in China's steel industry.
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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (right) and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi walk to their seats before a meeting on the sidelines of a gathering of Foreign Ministers of the G20 leading and developing economies at the World Conference Center in Bonn, Germany, Feb. 17, 2017. South Korea's President Park Geun-hye was impeached in December and the leading candidates to replace her all take a softer line on North Korea, with front-runner Moon Jae-in saying that the next administration should review the decision to deploy Thaad.
Shanghai: China will suspend all imports of coal from North Korea, effectively slicing the country's exports by about half.
The decision came less than a week after North Korea's latest missile test, as tensions escalate over the reclusive state's defiance of United Nations resolutions.
These could push the reclusive state into further provocations, observers said. On Saturday in Germany, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se held a bilateral foreign ministerial meeting on the sidelines of the security conference, struggling to find common ground over the controversial issue of deploying the US -led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system in Korea, a decision that China objects.
Beijing wants to convince Washington and Seoul to turn down the heat and not further irritate North Korean leader Kim, Wang said.
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The rejection came a day after Pyongyang's test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile, its first direct challenge to the worldwide community since US President Donald Trump took office on January. 20.
The Chinese government announced the ban as its top diplomat was wrapping up a three-day security conference in Munich, where North Korea was a key issue. He had lived outside North Korea for many years and had close links to China.
Yonhap quoted a military official as saying that the move was meant to demonstrate the allies' full readiness and combat capabilities against North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile threats.
US and South Korean military forces are preparing for a major annual joint exercise in March.
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