China restricts trade with North Korea over nuclear tests

Beijing has banned imports of gold, coal, iron ore and rare earths from Pyongyang, in line with UN sanctions on North Korea. The world’s second-biggest economy will also stop selling jet fuel and other oil products used to make rocket fuel to its neighbor.

In March, the UN Security Council unanimously expanded sanctions against North Korea after Pyongyang made a fourth nuclear test and launched a long-range rocket.

China’s participation is crucial to the sanctions, as it buys about two-thirds of North Korean exports, mostly coal, iron ore, gold, titanium, vanadium and rare earths.

CIA data says that in 2013 Pyongyang exported $4.4 billion worth goods, 65 percent of which went to China. Last year, North Korea sold about 20 million tons of coal to China, ahead of Russia and Mongolia to become China’s third biggest supplier after Australia and Indonesia.

However, the Chinese ban exempts coal from third countries through the North Korean port of Rason.

Beijing will also allow jet and rocket fuel exports to Pyongyang for “basic humanitarian needs”, which includes civilian passenger planes.

Last week, after the global Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to intensify the efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

UN sanctions have been imposed on North Korea since 2006 because of Pyongyang’s nuclear tests and rocket launches, but the latest restrictions are regarded as the toughest.