BEIJING, Feb 15 (Reuters) - China rejected a shipment of coal from North Korea a day after the country testfired a ballistic missile in violation of international sanctions, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported on Wednesday.
A load of around 16,295 tonnes of North Korean coal, estimated to be worth around $1 million, was not allowed to be unloaded at a seaport in Wenzhou in China’s Zhejiang province on Monday, and will be returned to the North Korean western port of Nampo, the agency said citing unidentified sources.
The rejection was due to a higher-than-permissible level of mercury contained in the coal, the agency said.
The move came a day after Pyongyang’s test of the intermediate-range ballistic missile on Sunday, its first direct challenge to the international community since U.S. President Donald Trump took office on Jan. 20.
In September, the United Nations imposed new sanctions on North Korea, as part of an effort to deter Pyongyang from pursuing its nuclear weapons programme after the country’s fifth and largest nuclear test.
It set an annual sales cap of $400.9 million or 7.5 million tonnes, whichever is lower, on coal, the isolated country’s biggest export, effective from Jan. 1.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Gen Shuang said he was not aware of the case when asked about the rejection at a regular briefing on Wednesday.
He reiterated the government’s stance that the guidelines on coal in the United Nations sanctions are very clear and China is abiding by them.
China imported 22.5 million tonnes of coal from North Korea last year. (Reporting by Josephine Mason; additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Philip Wen; Editing by Keith Weir)