New sanctions could cripple reclusive North Korea’s mining sector – by Ilan Solomons ( – May 27, 2016)

JOHANNESBURG ( – New sanctions on North Korea imposed by the United Nations (UN) and the US in March for allegedly undertaking nuclear and ballistic missile tests earlier this year will affect the country’s mineral resources sector.

North Korea – officially named the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and referred to as such by the UN and particularly by State-run media outlets – denies this allegation, claiming instead that the tests were attempts to launch satellites for “peaceful purposes”.

The sanctions affect the mining sector significantly, as they have banned the sale or transfer of North Korean coal, iron and iron-ore “if profits are deemed to be spent on the country’s nuclear or missile programme”.

However, minerals for sale, which are “exclusively for livelihood purposes”, are exempted. Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies US-Korea Institute researcher Curtis Melvin says the impact of these sanctions on the country’s mining industry remains to be seen.

“It is unclear how strongly China will enforce the new US and UN sanctions on the country. However, it is unlikely they will do anything that will jeopardise the stability of the North Korean regime,” he says. Melvin explains that China is North Korea’s largest trading partner and the largest importer of its natural resources.
He says, although 2015 trade data for North Korea has not yet been published, China–North Korea trade comprised $6.8-billion of North Korea’s $9.7-billion total trade revenue in 2014.

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