China must stay the course

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China must stay the course

With China enforcing UN sanctions against North Korea in a robust way, the international community’s pressure on the rogue state is gaining momentum. China’s Ministry of Commerce on Tuesday posted on its website 25 items that Beijing banned in its trade with the North. Following the guidelines established by the Commerce Ministry and the General Administration of Customs, China’s enforcement of a mini-embargo came into full force 33 days after the UN Security Council passed its toughest-ever resolution and four days after Chinese leader Xi Jinping told President Park Geun-hye that China will execute the sanctions completely.

According to the guidelines, China cannot import coal, gold and rare earth elements from North Korea and also cannot export several key items, including aviation fuel. China took a meaningful step to abide by the guidelines stipulated in the latest Security Council Resolution 2276. More importantly, Beijing has officially announced follow-up measures to put those sanctions into action.

Some pessimists are raising questions about the efficacy of Chinese sanctions by pointing out exceptions in the guidelines applicable to the export and import of goods for the good of the North Korean people, but not the military or nuclear program. But in order for banned products to be eligible for exceptions, importers or exporters must submit a letter of guarantee signed by their CEOs to the commerce and foreign affairs ministries as well as the Security Council Sanctions Committees. In other words, abuse of the exceptions is not so easy. Whether China has implemented the sanctions faithfully will be determined by a report Beijing is supposed to submit to the Sanctions Committees after 90 days.

Seven items — including coal and iron ore — specified in the embargo list accounted for 44.9 percent of North Korea’s total exports, and 97 percent of them went to China. Given the North’s overreliance on China for exports, the sanctions will inflict immense damage on its floundering economy. Fortunately, Beijing has officially — and for the first time — announced a list of embargoed items in a bid to do its part as a credible member of the international community.

The move by Xi can be seen as a signal that China will not embrace its ally as in the past. Yet the North still appears to be in a state of autohypnosis. It says it’s used to international sanctions. The recalcitrant regime in Pyongyang must wake up and take a path toward denuclearization. China must strictly follow the UN sanctions until the North gives up its nuclear ambitions once and for all.

JoongAng Ilbo, Apr. 7, Page 30
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