China on Sunday began a suspension of all coal imports from North Korea for the rest of the year as it increases pressure on its communist neighbor to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, reports the AP. The ban is in line with UN Security Council sanctions imposed in November in response to North Korea's fifth nuclear test two months earlier, the Commerce Ministry said in an online statement Saturday. China had already banned coal imports from North Korea in April last year, but those restrictions allowed some imports for civilian use. "Imports of coal produced in North Korea—including shipments already declared to the customs but yet to be released—will be suspended for the remainder of this year," said a Commerce Ministry statement, per CNN.
China is North Korea's largest source of trade and aid and Sunday's suspension will deprive Pyongyang of an important source of foreign currency. Beijing has come under pressure from President Trump to lean harder on Pyongyang, but Beijing says its influence is limited. However, it has grown increasingly frustrated with North Korea's defiance of UN demands that it end missile tests and development of nuclear weapons. North Korea launched its latest ballistic missile test a week ago. (Read more coal stories.)