China Claims Coal Imports from North Korea Dropped to Zero in One Month

Kent Boydston (PIIE) and Melina Kolb (PIIE)

May 19, 2017

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There were over one million tons of coal imported from North Korea into China in February and none in March, claims China in its latest trade data. China made the surprise announcement of its plans in February to cut off all North Korea coal imports, signaling it was taking a harder line against the rogue state. However, data from China's customs agency do not account for lower-level smuggling, and anecdotal evidence, including satellite imagery, places the accuracy of the data in question.

Yet the move could signal China’s willingness to put more pressure on North Korea against further nuclear weapons tests. North Korea is still importing goods from China and runs a large trade deficit, giving China additional potential leverage.

This PIIE Chart is adapted from Kent Boydston’s blog post, “How Good is China at Sanctions Enforcement?”

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