North Korean ships carrying coal arrive at Chinese port

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North Korean ships carrying coal arrive at Chinese port

Ten North Korean ships reportedly carrying coal have arrived at a Chinese port after being stranded in international waters for the past three weeks following China’s suspension of coal imports from the North, a U.S. report said Friday, raising concerns about a resumption of their coal trade.

A group of six North Korean merchant vessels, including Sai Nal 3 and Jin Hung, entered the Chinese Port of Longkou as of 11:00 p.m. Thursday, the Washington-based Voice of America (VOA) reported, citing Marine Traffic, a private website that tracks the movements of ships in real-time.

In the morning on Thursday, another four North Korean ships arrived at the same port before heading back to the North Korean port of Nampo, situated about midway along North Korea’s west coast, according to the VOA report.

The VOA said the ships had been staying in international waters some 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) out from Longkou port since Feb. 19 when China’s import ban on North Korean coal took effect before making a port call the previous day. Longkou is a well-known port for unloading North Korean coal.

Last year, China’s commerce ministry said it will suspend imports of North Korean coal, effective throughout the end of 2017, as part of its implementation of the United Nations’ sanctions on North Korea.

North Korea heavily relies on coal exports to China for its foreign currency income needed to finance the country’s internationally prohibited development of nuclear weapons.

The VOA said it is difficult to tell whether the ships were carrying coal, but the ships’ Google Earth images showed heaps of what looked like coal loaded onto them.

The report also said China has submitted an implementation report to the U.N.’s North Korea sanctions committee, saying its imports of North Korean coal stood at 1.23 million tons last month.

Earlier, China said its January imports of North Korean coal reached 1.44 million tons. The records put China’s inbound shipments of North Korean coal at 2.6 million tons for the first two months of 2017, which account for about 35 percent of what the U.N. Security Council’s Resolution 2321 allowed for the whole year.

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