China issues official list of North Korea embargo products

Posted on : 2016-04-06 16:39 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Despite China’s pledges, questions remain over to what extent UN sanctions on North Korea will be enforced

The Chinese government issued an official document on Apr. 5 listing specific embargo targets following the United Nation Security Council’s Mar. 2 passage of Resolution 2270 sanctioning North Korea for its recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

It is the first detailed list offered by Beijing since the resolution’s passage.

A document titled “Announcement of the List of Minerals and Metals Banned for Transport into North Korea” was posted on Apr. 5 on the web sites of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and China Customs. Its content included a detailed list of guidelines regarding the bans on imports of North Korean minerals and exports of aircraft fuel. Consisting of 788 total characters, it begins with the words “In order to enforce the related UNSC resolution, transport of the following products to and/or from North Korea is banned in accordance with the People’s Republic of China Foreign Trade Law.”

The last sentence states, “This announcement enters enforcement as of the date of its proclamation.”

Embargo terms listed in the announcement fell into three major categories: bans on the import of North Korean coal, iron, and iron ore; bans on the import of North Korean gold, vanadium ore, titanium ore, and rare-earth elements; and bans on the export of aircraft fuel to North Korea.

The specific items were consistent with those listed in the UNSC resolution. As with that resolution, exceptions for coal, iron, and iron ore were granted in cases of imports “fully for public welfare purposes” and coal “that was not produced in North Korea but exported through North Korea’s Rajin Port.” Exceptions to the aircraft fuel ban were allowed in humanitarian cases and necessary supplies for civil aircraft traveling to North Korea to complete a round trip.

Notably, the terms required reporting to the Chinese government to prove that items are not subject to sanctions. Regarding the decision to allow imports of North Korean coal, iron, and iron ore for “public welfare purposes,” the document states that “an approval document bearing the signature of a corporate representative or official and the official corporate stamp must be submitted to China Customs when importing specific trade items [for those purposes].” The measure means that authority to interpret the “public welfare purposes” that would allow parties to avoid sanctions will be left up to Chinese authorities. The Ministry of Commerce included a sample approval form with its post.

At the same time, the announcement made no reference to the standards for determining “public welfare purposes.” Instead, it only warned that “China Customs may not grant clearance if reliable intelligence suggests the trade in question is not for public welfare or is related to North Korea’s nuclear and/or missile plans.”

Since the UNSC resolution‘s adoption, Beijing has repeatedly affirmed the importance and its commitment to its “full and complete implementation,” as stated by President Xi Jinping during the recent Nuclear Security Summit. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said in a regular briefing on Apr. 5 that China’s “position on North Korea’s nuclear and missile plans is clear.”

The decision to publicly post the specific items targeted was also atypical - indicating that the measure may have been taken in the interest of consistent and transparent enforcement of the resolution because of the many Chinese government agencies involved in North Korea trade.

Analysts also predicted some time will be needed to judge how strictly the resolution will be enforced. Meeting with South Korean correspondents in Beijing on Apr. 5, South Korean Ambassador Kim Jang-soo to Beijing said China’s enforcement report, which is to be submitted to the UN within 90 days, will “serve as the standard to assess its commitment to enforcement.”

“No specific numbers have been provided on changes in the scale of North Korea-China trade or coal import volumes,” Kim added.

By Kim Oi-hyun, Beijing correspondent

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