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China bans North Korean iron, seafood imports

BEIJING, Aug 14, (Agencies): China will halt iron, iron ore and seafood imports from North Korea starting Tuesday, following through on new UN sanctions after US pressure for Beijing to strongarm Pyongyang over its ally’s nuclear programme.

The decision was announced on Monday after days of increasingly bellicose rhetoric between US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un’s regime, which has raised international alarm about where the crisis is headed. Beijing had pledged to fully enforce the latest sanctions after the United States accused China of not doing enough to rein in its neighbour, which relies heavily on the Asian giant for its economic survival.

The Chinese commerce ministry said on its website that all imports of coal, iron, iron ore and seafood will be “completely prohibited” from Tuesday. Beijing had already announced a suspension of coal imports in February. The United Nations Security Council, including permanent member Beijing, approved tough sanctions against Pyongyang on August 6 that could cost the country $1 billion a year. The sanctions were in response to the North’s two intercontinental ballistic missile tests last month, after which Kim boasted that he could now strike any part of the United States. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi vowed after the UN sanctions were approved that his country “will for sure implement that new resolution 100 percent, fully and strictly”.

China, which is suspected of failing to enforce past UN measures, accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s trade. Trump complained in July that trade between the two nations had increased by nearly 40 percent in the first quarter. Beijing has defended its economic ties with Pyongyang as normal commerce between neighbours and insisted the trade did not violate UN sanctions.

The suspension of coal imports deprives North Korea of massive income as it totalled $1.2 billion last year. Among the latest banned products, China imported $74.4 million worth of iron ore in the first five months of this year, almost equalling the figure for all of 2016. Fish and seafood imports totalled $46.7 million in June, up from $13.6 million in May. The United States angered China in June when it imposed unilateral sanctions on a Chinese bank accused of laundering North Korean cash. Trump will on Monday formally order a probe into China’s intellectual property practices, though US officials said it was not linked to the North Korean matter.

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