The Chinese government has announced on Saturday (18 February) it will stop coal imports from North Korea. The announcement is in line with sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear missile testing programme.

In a statement issued on China's commerce ministry's website, the government said: "[China] will temporarily stop its imports of coal from North Korea for the rest of this year [including coal for which customs applications have been made but not yet processed]."

The announcement follows news of North Korea's most recent missile test, last weekend, which leader Kim Jong-Un said gave him "great satisfaction" despite its defiance of UN resolutions.

The successful test-fired projectile was a medium-to-long-range ballistic missile, Pukguksong-2, which flew for around 500km (halfway to Japan) before plunging into the sea off the coast of the Korean Peninsula.

Following the test, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting following requests by the US, Japan and South Korea.

China had previously suspended coal imports from North Korea for three weeks in December after the UN's resolution against the country at the end of last year. However, this move goes significantly further, halting imports until the year's end which will have significant impacts on the North Korean economy.

China is one of North Korea's few allies and the country with whom North Korea does the bulk of its trade. With the tests following so soon after discussions between US President Donald Trump and China's leader Xi Jinping, the testing has been seen by some as a challenge to Trump.

However, North Korea was reported to have argued the launch was made to mark the 75th birthday of former leader Kim Jong-Il, who died in 2011. February 16 is observed as a national holiday, as the birthday of Jong-Il.

On Monday the Security Council threatened "further significant measures" against Pyongyang on Monday after the "grave violation" of UN resolutions against the country's missile testing programme. Days later US Secretary of State Rex Tilerson urged Beijing to use "all available tools to moderate North Korea's destabilising behaviour".

North Korea tensions
Kim Jong Un expressed "great satisfaction" at the test-launch of ballistic missiles last weekend.KCNA via Reuters