Beijing implements UN sanctions

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Beijing implements UN sanctions

The Chinese government announced measures to ban imports of North Korea’s coal and iron Tuesday.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce Tuesday also announced a ban on imports of gold, titanium, vanadium and rare earth minerals from North Korea as well as restrictions on airplane fuel exports to the country.

The restrictions follow stipulations in UNSC Resolution 2270, adopted unanimously on March 2 by the 15-member Security Council including China, which imposed strong sanctions on Pyongyang for its fourth nuclear test in February and subsequent long-range missile launch.

The notice followed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s return from a Nuclear Security Summit in Washington where North Korea was a key issue. How robustly China applied the new sanctions has been an international concern.

In one-on-one summits with President Park Geun-hye and U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the nuclear summit on March 31, Xi pledged that China will “fully enforce” the UN Security Council resolution.

“Along with the release of this notice, [the Chinese government] also should have released guidelines to be taken by [Chinese] custom authorities when they discover cargo in violation of these regulations,” a Korean government official said, “We will see China’s sanctions’ pressure on North Korea begin to unfold from here.”

However, exemptions were included in this notice by the Commerce Ministry to enable some leeway for the North. The ban on the sales of aviation and rocket fuel to North Korea allowed refueling of civilian aircrafts for China-bound flights and some basic humanitarian situations.

It also enabled imports of some goods for civilian use as long as they are for “the people’s well-being” and are not linked to North Korea’s nuclear or missile development programs.

A source familiar with North Korea trade issues said there were practical reasons for the month-long delay between the passing of the sanctions and China’s notice. “Time was needed for Chinese customs authorities to prepare and to complete the passing through of goods imported before the passing of the resolution.”

The South Korean government has also stepped up efforts to cut off sources of cash to Pyongyang, including telling Chinese travel agencies to stop selling North Korean goods.

If an agency fails to do so, it may lose its ability to act as an intermediary to apply for visas to South Korea, which would impact its ability to organize tour groups to the country.

The South Korean consulate in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, northeastern China, recently notified 52 tourism agencies in its jurisdiction that it will not allow them to apply for visas to South Korea starting April 18.

This amounts to 42 percent of 123 travel agencies in the region that have provided visa services for locals who want to travel to South Korea, mainly in Liaoning and Jilin provinces, which border North Korea.

The agencies were not notified why they would be temporarily blocked from applying for visas. They were given a number to call the consulate for details.

A senior official at the consulate said Tuesday the agencies were selected based on a review of various factors.

BY YEH YOUNG-JUNE, KIM HYOUNG-GU and SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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