'Minimal impact' from China's sanctions for importers of North Korean seafood

'Minimal impact' from China's sanctions for importers of North Korean seafood

Kim Jong Un fish
This undated picture released by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2015 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting fish during a visit to the Sinchang fish farm at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (Photo: KCNA via KNS/AFP)

SHANGHAI: China's fresh sanctions on North Korea will have minimal impact on the seafood imports, according to importers contacted by Channel NewsAsia. 

China said it was imposing a ban of seafood imports from North Korea from Tuesday (Aug 15), along with imports of coal, iron and lead.

China is North Korea's biggest trade partner and the move is seen as part of efforts to use economic sanctions to pressure Pyongyang to relent on its nuclear ambitions.

It is unclear exactly what type of seafood China imports from North Korea, but when contacted one of China's biggest seafood importers, Qingdao Boyuan Foods, said the volume is too small for any impact to be significant.

Another importer, Shanghai Minghai Foods, said the only seafood it imports from North Korea is the Alaskan pollock, but shipments are small and therefore the sanctions do not affect the company.

Coal companies contacted by Channel NewsAsia declined to comment.

China's Customs Administrators said coal imports from North Korea had shrunk by more than half in the first quarter of 2017 to slightly over 2.7 million tonnes. These shipments were made before mid-February when Beijing previously announced a ban on coal shipments from Pyongyang.

Zheng Jiyongm director of Korea and South Korea Research Centre at Fudan University, said the fresh sanctions from China will hurt Pyongyang since coal and iron ore shipments make up half of North Korea's overall income from exports.

However, experts say the latest measures by Beijing are unlikely to force Pyongyang to change its course.

"Extreme Chinese sanctions would only make China an immediate target for retaliation," said Zhang Zhexin, research fellow at the Center for Asia-Pacific Studies of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.

"The North Korea regime will hold its course however harsh the sanctions, for it is practically their last resource of confidence and strength amid mounting pressure and hostility."

The latest moves by Beijing come just as America piles on the pressure on China to do more to rein in North Korea by using trade as a bargaining chip.

Source: CNA/ec