The increasing tension in Sino – North Korea relations
The Chinese Financial Ministry has said China will impose a ban on coal import from North Korea from February 19 to December 31, 2017. Beijing emphasized that this decision is to enforce UNSC’s resolution 2321 to impose a sanction on Pyongyang for its nuclear tests.
China, the most important ally of North Korea, represents a great source of economic aid to the country. In April, 2016, China decided to stop coal import from North Korea in conformity with United Nation’s sanction. However, Beijing still allowed some exceptions as long as these shipments were for the welfare of people and had nothing to do with missile and nuclear programs. In doing so, China still maintained relations and ties with North Korea.
The decision to stop all coal import from North Korea from now to the end of 2017 thus attracted much public attention. Due to this economic sanction, North Korea is likely to encounter great difficulties since the export of coal, which generates about 1 billion USD revenue each year, is among the most profitable exports of the country. Last year, North Korea remained to be the fourth largest coal supplier of China with 22.5 million tons.
It is worth noting that, Chinese decision was made following two recent events related to North Korea. One was the ballistic missile test taking place on Feb. 12 while the new US President Donald Trump was hosting Japanese PM Shinzo Abe in the US. The other was the assassination of Kim Jong-nam. This man, Kim Jong-un’s half brother, was believed to be killed while he was about to return to/ was leaving for Macao, where he had lived for years.
These incidents have increased tensions in North Korea Peninsula in particular and the regional security in general. The US has expressed its concern and is seeking a solution to this situation. The country is going to carry out a joint military exercise with North Korea and wants to deploy smoothly the missile defense system THAAD.
Recently, in a meeting with the Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the sidelines of the G20 conference in Bonn (Germany), the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on his Chinese partner to help restrain North Korea. Therefore, with the decision to block coal import, Chinese wanted to respond to US demand concerning its policy towards North Korea.
Apart from shaping and developing relations with US new administration, Chinese moves is also intended to affirm that it can make influence upon North Korea so that Beijing will have advantages in seeking solutions to bilateral and multilateral issues in relations with Washington.
The relations between China and North Korea have strained since Beijing expressed its concern about Pyongyang’s nuclear tests and missile launches. On its part, since taking office/ coming to power, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has never paid an official visit to China. With this new development, the security of North Korea Peninsula and the regions is facing numerous challenges.