In an effort to allay concerns that it isn’t taking fears of North Korea seriously, China announced more details of its sanctions on the DPRK this morning. Reuters:
China on Tuesday banned imports of gold and rare earths from North Korea as well as exports to the country of jet fuel and other oil products used to make rocket fuel, a move in line with new United Nations sanctions on Pyongyang.
The Security Council unanimously passed a resolution in early March expanding U.N. sanctions aimed at starving North Korea of funds for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs after Pyongyang conducted a fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket in February.
The mining sector is a key part of North Korea’s economy, which is already largely cut off from the rest of the world. Experts believe revenue from the sector helps underwrite North Korea’s military expenditures.
The ministry said it would also ban coal shipments from North Korea, although it made exemptions consistent with sanctions, including uses intended for “the people’s well-being” and not connected to nuclear or missile programs.
Last week, a report in the New York Times suggested that Beijing might not be working very hard to keep sanctioned goods out of North Korea despite UN Sanctions. As we wrote at the time, the story didn’t make Washington, which had been trumpeting China’s cooperation, look all that savvy.
When North Korea misbehaves, it puts a lot of pressure on Beijing as South Korea and Japan hug each other closer—something that only happens under duress. China had been trying to improve relations with South Korea last year, but Seoul has pulled back since North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests earlier this year. South Korea and Japan don’t feel they can trust Beijing to keep its ally in check.
It doesn’t look like the situation will get easier for Beijing to manage any time soon: South Korean officials announced this morning that they believe Pyongyang can put a nuclear warhead on a medium-range missile capable of reaching South Korea, and parts of Russia and Japan. The United States said it isn’t so sure, but that the threat needs to be taken seriously nonetheless.