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North Korea appears to back down

A news report today out of North Korea suggests that its leader, Kim Jong Un, has stepped back from a plan to test fire four missiles in the direction of Guam.

This could be related to China’s decision this week, under strong pressure from the Trump administration, to finally go along with UN sanctions and ban imports of iron, lead, and coal from North Korea.

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China cuts off oil to North Korea

It’s about time. China’s national oil company has suspended all oil sales to North Korea because of lack of payment.

The reason North Korea doesn’t have the money to buy oil is largely because it hasn’t been able to sell any coal to China. And the reasons for both is likely China’s increasing desire to rein in North Korea’s missile and nuclear arms programs.

Without oil or coal, North Korea’s leadership will find itself hard-pressed to survive.

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China and South Korea agree to counter North Korea’s missile/nuclear program

Under pressure from the Trump administration to do something about North Korea’s out-of-control and aggressive nuclear and missile program, China has worked out an agreement with South Korea to take “strong action”.

It remains a question how serious this response will be, but it is also the first sign in a long time that China is finally taking the threat from North Korea seriously.

Update: China refuses acceptance of coal from a fleet of North Korean ships.

This new story confirms that China was serious about this ban when it announced it in February. Set to run to at least the end of this year, the loss of income to North Korea, very poor already, should have some influence there. Whether good or bad, however, remains unknown. One cannot expect irrational and mad individuals holding great power to come to rational conclusions.

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China suspends coal purchases from North Korea

Finally! In an apparent response to North Korea’s recent ballistic missile test China has suspended its coal purchases from North Korea through the end of this year.

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.

While there are doubts this will change policy in North Korea, it does indicate that China is finally losing patience with that rogue state and its threatening behavior. And since China is one of the few countries that does any trade with North Korea, it is probably one of the few countries that can influence it in any way.

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