After the assassination of Kim Jong-nam by the “LOL girl” and her partner, Ed Morrissey asked whether or not such a blatant and provocative move might finally wake up China. It didn’t take terribly long for us to find out the answer. Traditionally, the Chinese have paid little more than lip service to sanctions and other disciplinary measures taken by the international community against the reclusive dictatorship in North Korea. But this episode of murder in broad daylight playing out for all to see in the international media seems to have been a bridge too far at long last for China. In a rare and potentially crippling move, effective today the Chinese are suspending all imports of coal from Kim Jong-un ‘s empire. (Washington Post)
China will suspend all imports of coal from North Korea until the end of the year, the Commerce Ministry announced Saturday, in a surprise move that would cut off a major financial lifeline for Pyongyang and significantly enhance the effectiveness of U.N. sanctions.
Coal is North Korea’s largest export item, and also China’s greatest point of leverage over the regime.
The ministry said the ban would come into force Sunday and be effective until Dec. 31.
China said the move was designed to implement November’s United Nations Security Council resolution that tightened sanctions against the regime in the wake of its last nuclear test.
The ban on imported coal is supposed to run through the end of this year. Assuming they actually implement this policy and stick with it, this is a major blow against North Korea. Coal is their primary export and the Chinese are among the only nations who will do any business with North Korea these days. A move like this will really hit Kim Jong-un in the wallet and that is perhaps the only sort of rebuke the diminutive dictator would take to heart.
It wasn’t just the assassination either. That story was unfolding at precisely the same time as news of North Korea’s most recent ballistic missile launch was being widely reported. The Chinese are in the midst of a rather delicate dance with President Donald Trump at the moment, coming to terms with the cancellation of TPP and the need to potentially have to negotiate an entirely new bilateral trade agreement with the United States. Add to that the fact that Kim Jong-nam had enjoyed the protection of the Chinese for many years and you have a pair of slaps to the face which it seems the Chinese were unwilling to accept.
The sad part of all this is that such a financial hit to North Korea’s trade situation likely will not produce the desired result if the dictator’s past actions are any guide. Odds are that he will continue with his nuclear ambitions and wholesale slaughter of his political opponents (including family members) and simply cut back spending in other areas such as feeding his own people. North Korea is already a nation of people living on the brink of starvation, though the few international media cameras allowed into the country are never permitted to show it. With less money coming into Kim’s coffers this humanitarian disaster could worsen even further.