Wed, Apr 12, 2017 - Page 5 News List

China tells N Korean fleet to return home with coal

TRADE DIPLOMACY?Data showed that no US coking coal was exported to China between late 2014 and last year, but shipments soared to 400,000 tonnes by late February


A fleet of North Korean cargo ships is heading home to the port of Nampo, the majority of it fully laden, after China ordered its trading companies to return coal from the isolated country, shipping data shows.

Following repeated missile tests that drew international criticism, China on Feb. 26 banned all imports of North Korean coal, cutting off the country’s most important export product.

To curb coal traffic between the two countries, the Chinese General Administration of Customs on Friday issued an official order telling trading companies to return their North Korean coal cargoes, three trading sources with direct knowledge of the order said.

US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) were discussing North Korea at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on Friday.

Shipping data on Thomson Reuters Eikon, a financial information and analytics platform, showed a dozen cargo ships on their way to North Korea’s main west coast port of Nampo, almost all carrying cargoes from China.

Trump’s administration has been pressuring China to do more to rein in North Korea, which sends the vast majority of its exports to its giant neighbor across the Yellow Sea.

However, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said last week’s US military strike against Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons was a warning to other countries, including North Korea, that “a response is likely” if they pose a danger.

As a US Navy strike group headed to the region in a show of force, China and South Korea on Monday agreed to slap tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carries out nuclear or long-range missile tests, a senior official in Seoul said.

North Korea this month has several major anniversaries and often marks the occasions with major tests of military hardware.

A source at Dandong Chengtai, one of China’s biggest buyers of North Korean coal, said the company had 600,000 tonnes of North Korean coal sitting at various ports, and a total of 2 million tonnes was stranded at Chinese ports.

Eikon data showed that most of these ships have left Chinese coal ports, including Weihai and Peng Lai, returning to North Korea full or mostly filled with cargo.

Last month, Reuters reported that Malaysia briefly prevented a North Korean ship carrying coal from China from entering its port in Penang because of a suspected breach in sanctions.

The ship was eventually allowed to unload its 6,300 metric tonnes of anthracite coal.

North Korea is a significant supplier of coal to China, especially of the type used for steelmaking, known as coking coal.

To make up for the shortfall from North Korea, China has ramped up imports from the US in an unexpected boon for Trump, who has declared he wants to revive his country’s struggling coal sector.

Eikon data showed no US coking coal was exported to China between late 2014 and last year, but shipments had soared to more than 400,000 tonnes by late February.

That trend was exacerbated after Cyclone Debbie knocked out supplies from the world’s top coking coal region in the Australian state of Queensland, forcing Chinese steelmakers to buy even more US cargoes.

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