China blocks North Korea coal imports in the wake of United Nations sanctions

"Today, what we see is nuclear test, sanction, nuclear test and then sanction again", said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

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 United Nations sanctions.

"Imports of coal produced in North Korea - including shipments already declared to the customs but yet to be released - will be suspended for the remainder of this year", said the statement posted on the ministry's website.

That may indicate it was in part a North Korean attempt to sow division between China and the United States, which has pressed Beijing to bring more pressure on Pyongyang, said Wang Dong, an expert on Northeast Asian geopolitics at Peking University. Just last month, for instance, China resumed coal imports from North Korea after suspending them for only a month.

President Trump's administration has said that China should do more to pressure Pyongyang.

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Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, moderating last Saturday's panel, asked Ms Fu to put herself in the shoes of a South Korean and discuss the threat of North Korea's ambitions.

Following the test, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting following requests by the US, Japan and South Korea.

While the ministry did not disclose the formal reason for the import suspension, the recent developments surrounding North Korean ballistic missile test and the alleged assassination of Kim Jong-Nam could both be the reason behind the Chinese decision. However, this didn't stop the North Korea form instituting a missile test. Especially for Tokyo and Seoul to closely work together on policies against North Korea, the South Korean side is required to make honest responses.

China's announcement came as investigators in Malaysia probe the assassination of Kim's half-brother on Monday, which Seoul says was carried out by female agents on the orders of Pyongyang. But Wang maintained that the Chinese government had not taken any sort of retaliatory measures against Korea. In August, China imported 2.47 million tons of coal from the North.

Trump has repeatedly criticised China for doing too little to help stop North Korea's nuclear programme.

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The decision came less than a week after North Korea's latest missile test, as tensions escalate over the reclusive state's defiance of United Nations resolutions.

"Coal represents one-third of North Korea's total exports".

The bilateral meeting was arranged upon the request of China.

Einar Tangen, a China analyst, told Al Jazeera that Beijing's move would have a massive impact on North Korea's economy. The two ministers addressed each other as "old friends".

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