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Editorial: China too tardy in implementing sanctions against N. Korea coal exports

The latest revelation has highlighted the realities regarding China’s neglect of its duty to implement sanctions on North Korea, which is accelerating its nuclear and missile development. Countries concerned must not sit on their hands, doing nothing about a loophole in efforts to contain North Korea.


A U.N. Security Council sanctions committee has announced that the amount of coal the North exported during a one-month period starting in late November was about twice the upper limit set by a U.N. resolution adopted to punish that country, and also about 3.5 times greater in value. Although the committee did not clearly state the destination of North Korea’s coal exports, nearly all of the coal is believed to have been shipped to China.


In early December, the Chinese government announced it would suspend coal imports from the North until the end of last year. Beijing has said the increase in its coal imports was due to a “time lag” between the resolution’s adoption and its compliance with the decision, saying that the delay was caused by making relevant adjustments to domestic laws and notifying corporations of the embargo.


The sanctions are aimed at curtailing North Korea’s coal exports, a key source of foreign currency acquisition for the regime of Kim Jong Un.


Given that China has neglected the sanctions despite its position as a permanent Security Council member that was engaged in drafting the resolution, the country’s intention regarding the implementation of the sanctions must be subject to doubt.

In talks with Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in mid-February, his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, said that his country was continuing to properly implement the sanctions.


The day after their talks, the Chinese government unveiled measures to suspend coal imports from the North, starting on Feb. 19 and ending at the end of this year. The reason for the action is because China’s coal purchase from North Korea was coming close to “the import upper limit” for this year, Beijing said. By showing an ostensible readiness to strictly implement the sanctions, China must be trying to deflect international pressure.


Don’t shift responsibility


There is believed to be smuggling along the Chinese and North Korean border, as well as indirect trade between the two nations via a third country. It is critical for China to clamp down on attempts to circumvent the sanctions, as expressly stated by Wang, thereby heightening the effectiveness of the resolution.


What cannot be overlooked is Wang’s remark that “the United States and North Korea … must quickly come to a political decision” as direct parties to the North’s nuclear issue. His assertion was tantamount to shifting the responsibility of resolving the problem to the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump.


China must not forget that it has an important role to play in preventing the Kim regime from getting out of control, as the former holds the North Korean economy’s lifeline in its hands.


The main factor behind North Korea’s uninterrupted nuclear and missile development programs is, first and foremost, China’s passive stance on the sanctions, which could destabilize the North Korean regime, as well as its attempt to gut the substance of the punishment.


The administration of Chinese President Xi Jinping is exerting pressure on South Korea, opposing the planned deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), a state-of-the-art missile defense system, to South Korea.


China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency has published an editorial warning South Korea’s Lotte Group, one of the country’s major conglomerates, saying the group “stands to lose Chinese customers and the Chinese market.”


One of the golf courses Lotte owns has been cited as a likely site for the deployment of the THAAD system. The act of intimidating an individual corporation will only add to regional distrust of China.

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