Asia Minute: China Moves Quickly on North Korean Trade Sanctions

Aug 15, 2017

Credit Roman Harak / Flickr

China has agreed to enforce United Nations trade sanctions against North Korea, and those actions begin today. Earlier this month, all members of the U.N. Security Council approved the move, but the biggest impact will be on China. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

China has been North Korea’s largest trade partner for decades.

According to Chinese government figures and estimates from the United States, about 90 percent of North Korea’s overall trade is with China. The Chinese Commerce Ministry says that as of today, all imports of iron, iron ore, lead and seafood from North Korea will be “completely prohibited.”

Three weeks will be allowed to process imports already in motion, but as of midnight September 5th that will stop.

Coal imports have already been suspended since February, but restrictions were going to be lifted at the end of the year. Now they will remain in place indefinitely.

The sanctions will also impact Chinese exports to North Korea, but the biggest economic cost to the Pyongyang government is cutting off the export of coal.

This is the eighth time the U.N. has tightened sanctions on North Korea since 2006. But there is still room to do more—such as banning the export of North Korean textiles or the import of oil.

This set of sanctions is also noteworthy for how relatively quickly authorities in Beijing have taken action.

The last time the U.N. imposed trade sanctions against North Korea, China took 90 days to act and put them in place.

This time, it took a week and a half.