The Ministry of Commerce said China would suspend all imports of coal from North Korea for the rest of the year, in accordance with existing United Nations sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programme.
However, because of its overriding concern with maintaining stability, China has repeatedly refused to apply the only type of pressure that could steer North Korea off the nuclear path: the threat of regime-ending punishment.
The temporary ban, which the Ministry of Commerce said would remain through the end of this year, follows North Korea's launch of a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan this month, in defiance of worldwide sanctions. As of a year ago, North Korea was China's fourth biggest supplier of coal.
While China has previously resisted calls by the U.S. to apply greater pressure on Kim's regime, North Korea is increasingly becoming a strategic liability, according to Zhou Qi, director of the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Saturday's announcement follows reports from earlier this month that China had stopped a North Korean coal shipment worth around $1 million.
"Beijing still wants to bring him to a negotiation table - and that's where the U.S. role lies - because the collapse of the regime is right now outside China's realistic capacity to handle". South Korean officials said the North Korean rocket traveled some 500 kilometers before it came down in the Sea of Japan.
Einar Tangen, a China analyst, told Al Jazeera that Beijing's move would have a massive impact on North Korea's economy. The argument was that China remains the only country with sufficient economic and political leverage to deter North Korea's nuclear ambitions and convince it to return to the negotiating table.
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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was making good on an earlier threat to test-fire a missile of this kind, which is capable of reaching the USA mainland. They issued a trilateral joint statement saying that the ministers "condemned in the strongest terms" North Korea's ballistic missile launch of February 12.
China's Ministry of Commerce, in a public notice jointly issued with the country's customs agency Saturday, said the decision was made to comply with a UN Security Council resolution that China helped draft and pass last November. "Xi is less willing to tolerate these provocations", he said.
Shortly after the missile test, U.S. President Donald Trump said North Korea was "a big, big problem ... and we will deal with that very strongly".
Some believe North Korea is nearing completion of a ballistic missile that can reach the USA mainland.
North Korea said the latest missile it tested, on February 12, could carry a nuclear warhead.
"Coal represents one-third of North Korea's total exports".
It gave China a ready out, Troy Stangarone, senior director of congressional affairs and trade at the Korea Economic Institute, told Elise previous year. We urge the South Korean government to quickly approach the private group that erected the statue and the local government to start discussions for its removal.