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China resists US bid to block North Korea's coal exports

Coal is important to the economic health of North Korea because it is one of its only sources of hard currency. In photo: A cargo ship is loaded with coal in a dock in North Korea on July 18, 2014 Photograph: (Reuters)

Reuters United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY, United States Oct 11, 2016, 04.26 AM (IST)

China appears to be resisting a bid by the US to block a loophole in UN sanctions, which allows North Korea to export coal for "livelihood purposes". 

Chinese UN Ambassador Liu Jieyi told Reuters, "We cannot really affect the well-being and the humanitarian needs of the people and also we need to urge various parties to reduce tensions." 

Liu Jieyi said on Saturday that "a draft resolution with a wider scope of measures" is being discussed with the United States. 

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said North Korea seems to have exploited some exemptions granted by the resolution. 

"In the negotiation that we are currently in the midst on in the new resolution, we are hoping to address some of the shortcomings that we have seen," Power said. 

In March, after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test, sanctions were imposed on Korea. The sanctions barred the 193 UN member states from importing coal, iron and iron ore from North Korea unless it was for "livelihood purposes".

Coal is crucial for North Korean economy as it is bartered for oil, food and machinery. It is their largest single export item and only source of hard currency. 

China, North Korea's closest ally, is working with the US to draft a UN Security Council resolution on imposing new sanctions against North Korea after the isolated country conducted its fifth and largest nuclear test a month ago. 

China's imports of coal from North Korea had initially dipped by 35 per cent soon after the ban was implemented. But imports have risen again.

"Fundamentally, no matter any resolution says, it is going to be up to the Member States of the United Nations, and particularly those Member States that have dealings with the DPRK (North Korea), to fully enforce the resolution," Liu said. 

"We are still looking at the specific things in the draft. It's still in the process of being discussed," she said, adding, "We certainly hope that we will achieve a result soon, but it depends on how we work together ... towards a common position."

Meanwhile, Power said the US wants a resolution"that makes a substantive difference and changes the calculus over time of the North Korean leadership".

According to Reuters, China is apprehensive about a refugee crisis occurring due to stringent sanctions put on Pyongyang.

(WION with inputs from Reuters)


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