Coal-laden ships in limbo out at sea

Choi Song Min  |  2016-03-24 11:13
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North Korea has seen a surge in its coal production as a result of the "70 day battle" that has pushed workers to increase their output in preparation for the upcoming Party Congress in May. However, with China appearing to uphold international sanctions, in effect cutting off routes for Pyongyang to export its coal, concerns are mounting over who will be held responsible. 

Recently, weve seen a full ban on our [North Korean] ships at the Port of Yingkou in Liaoning Province, where coal trade had been most active with China, a source from Pyongyang told Daily NK in a telephone conversation on Tuesday. Weve also received notice that the Port of Rizhao in Shandong Province will also gradually restrict entry. 

An additional source in the capital corroborated this news. 

The news suddenly arrived as a unilateral announcement from China two days ago, leading to chaos at the commerce ministry, the source explained. Cadres have been unable to decide whether to turn around all of the other ships at sea, on top of the coal and iron ore vessels that are still awaiting orders after being refused port entry at Yingkou."

This setback was reported to the Central Party, but trade officials have instead chosen to admonish others for not taking action in advance to mitigate the problem rather than consider potential solutions. There has also been indirect criticism of the nuclear test and long-range rocket launch, with questions as to why they need to clean up a mess made by others, he reported.

Some cadres are reportedly expressing their concerns over the financial implications of these events, exclaiming, If we cant export coal any more, were done for. The question of who will be held responsible for the export blockage also has people on edge, with some reminded of Jang Song Thaek shouldering the blame for the countrys failed currency reform and the stalling of construction for the 100,000 homes project in Pyongyang. 

The source added that coal workers are also troubled by the export block after having been excited about the prospect of receiving increased rations as a reward for the 70-day battle production surge. Cutting off ration supplies [received from China with payment for coal] will negatively affect workers and result in diminished output, and by extension impact power plants, the industrial sector, and other aspects of peoples lives. This may in turn ignite a good deal of anger within the public, he speculated. 

Meanwhile, Japans Asahi Shimbun reported on Tuesday that Beijing has banned North Korean ships from making port entry at the Port of Tianjin, as well as Shandong Provinces Ports of Rizhao, Penglai, Weifang, and Jiangsu Provinces Port of Nantong, in response to Pyongyang continuing its threats and provocations despite international condemnation and the adoption of stronger UN sanctions. 

*Translated by Jiyeon Lee
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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