Tillerson affirms importance of constructive US-China ties

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang speaks at the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Munich

Met coal has been sold down relentlessly following multi-year high of $308.80 per tonne (Australia free-on-board premium hard coking coal tracked by the Steel Index) hit in November, but news that China will stop importing all coal from North Korea may be what finally supplies a floor.

But in a sign that Beijing's patience was running out, it rejected a coal shipment from North Korea worth about $1 million Monday, the day after the test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported.

The decision from China comes just days after North Korea tested a ballistic missile, breaking a United Nations ban on its nuclear program. Pyongyang has made significant progress in developing nuclear weapons and missile technology despite American efforts, to the point where the continental US could now be within striking range.

Despite the restrictions, North Korea remained China's fourth biggest supplier of coal previous year, with non-lignite imports reaching 22.48 million tonnes, up 14.5 percent compared to 2015. China says it is committed to enforcing United Nations sanctions against its unpredictable neighbour, whose nuclear and missile tests have angered Beijing.

The decision is part of an effort to begin sanctions aimed at stopping North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Asked about the new Trump administration, Ri said while the United States maintains a "continuous hostile policy", it doesn't matter which President is in the White House.

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As a captive supplier (and due to a deal struck by Ulaanbaatar to use coal exports to pay down debts owed to Aluminum Corporation of China, or Chalco) land-locked Mongolia sells its coal for much less than the seaborne price.

China's Ministry of Commerce has said its ban on coal imports from North Korea would be effective until December 31. Whereas Kim Jong-il used the nuclear program as a bargaining chip to gain concessions from the global community, the Kim Jong-un regime has demonstrated an intent to acquire nuclear weapons as a deterrent (part of its Byungjin strategy, which also emphasizes economic development).

Experts on North Korea said analysis suggested the sanctions are having an effect.

North Korea's recent ballistic missile launch-the first to occur during the Trump administration-once again raises the question of how the United States should handle the North Korean nuclear program, and how China should fit into the equation. Likewise, applying additional sanctions on Chinese firms to reduce their business operations in North Korea will not significantly alter this situation.

Wang and Yun also discussed North Korea, the ministry said, with Wang saying efforts to seek peace should not be abandoned. That appeal came after an emergency meeting in NY called by the United States, Japan and South Korea.

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