Chinese officials ordered ships full of North Korean coal to return home the day after the Trump administration ordered missile strikes against a Syrian airfield in response to chemical weapons attacks.
President Donald Trump ordered U.S. warships launch 59 missiles against the Syrian base Thursday night, April 6, and three Chinese sources with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters that customs officials rebuffed North Korean coal ships on Friday, April 7.
Trump met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort on Friday as well. The order to block North Korean coal was issued soon after Trump’s meeting with Xi concluded.
A dozen North Korean cargo ships loaded with coal were ordered to turn around, according to Reuters.
Dandong Chengtai Trade Co., the largest importer of North Korean coal, said 600,000 tons of coal sat idle in ports and a further 2 million tons of coal is sitting Chinese ports waiting to go back to Korea, according to Reuters.
China’s substituted its Korean coking coal with U.S.-produced coal. It’s a small boon for an industry Trump said he’d fight to help during his 2016 campaign run. China imported more than 400,000 tons of U.S. coal in February.
China officially banned North Korean coal imports in February, but U.S. officials continued to put pressure on China to fully honored its ban. (RELATED: China Turns Away North Korean Trade After Trump Pressures Beijing)
China is North Korea’s most important trading partner. North Korea is an important supplier of coal for China’s massive steel industry.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley recently said China was still getting North Korean coal “through other ways” and asked the country to “take this as seriously as the rest of the world does.”
The Trump administration sent a U.S. Navy strike group to the region, showing their resolve to take action if North Korea gets too out of hand.
Reuters reported that “China and South Korea agreed on Monday to slap tougher sanctions on North Korea if it carries out nuclear or long-range missile tests, a senior official in Seoul said.”
Trump launched missile strikes against a Syrian airfield after the Assad regime dropped chemical weapons on civilians in the northwestern part of the country.