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China buys up North Korean coal on eve of UN import ban

China buys up North Korean coal on eve of UN import ban

China procured some 1.63 million tons of coal from North Korea in August, new government data shows, as the nation apparently reopened import channels ahead of a United Nations coal embargo on Pyongyang.

The U.N. Security Council banned coal trade with North Korea in a resolution adopted Aug. 5. The Chinese government may have approved a last-minute import push before it implemented the ban Aug. 15.

This would seem to contradict its announcement in February that coal imports from the North would be suspended for the rest of the year. China had said at the time that the suspension was in line with a Security Council resolution, adopted last November, that caps total annual exports of the mineral by North Korea at roughly $400 million.

China imported about $220 million of coal from the country this January and February, far short of the limit. August imports came to nearly $140 million, according to Chinese customs data released Tuesday.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized Tuesday that China always strictly implements U.N. sanctions. Asked whether the statistics were correct, the spokesperson said to direct the question to customs authorities.

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