June 6, 2017 6:35 am JST

North Korean coal exports hit zero, Security Council reports

China complies with sanctions as Pyongyang continues nuclear tests, missile launches

RINA TAKAHASHI, Nikkei staff writer

Trucks are parked next to a pile of coal on the bank of the Yalu River in Sinuiju, North Korea, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong on March 14, 2016. © Reuters

NEW YORK -- North Korea exported no coal in April, according to a report released this weekend by the U.N. Security Council committee on the country's sanctions, indicating that China is strictly implementing punitive measures against the rogue nation.

North Korea exported 1.23 million tons of coal in February, followed by a decline to 6,342 tons in March, the report said.

Coal exports are said to be a major source of foreign currency for Pyongyang and used to fund its nuclear and ballistic missile development.

Although a Security Council resolution in March 2016 banned all U.N. member states from procuring North Korean coal, China had continued its purchases through a loophole, which allowed coal imports if proceeds were for "livelihood purposes of DPRK [North Korean] nationals." But with North Korea's repeated provocations, it seems even China is toughening its stance.

The U.S. had been urging China, North Korea's largest trading partner, to apply more pressure as Pyongyang stepped up its weapons program. In response, China announced in February that it will halt North Korean coal imports through the end of 2017, saying it was approaching the limit outlined by sanctions adopted by the Security Council in November.

The additional sanctions, which were a reaction to a nuclear test conducted in September, capped North Korean coal exports to about 7.5 million tons a year or a total of around $400 million, whichever is lower, under the "livelihood" clause.

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