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22 April 2017, 01:24 | Terri Saunders
Russia Blocks US-Drafted UN Statement Condemning North Korea Tests
The Jin Hung 9 docked at a port in Tangshan city in northern Hebei province, near Beijing, on Thursday morning.
The Su Pung, which also flies a North Korean flag, was shown to be at a berth at the port's Jintang coal terminal, data showed. The website listed a almost six-hour unloading time for the ship.
It's unclear what the ships unloaded.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, asked about the ships and whether China was allowing North Korean coal back in, said China was "seriously enforcing" the provisions in its announcement banning North Korean coal imports for the remainder of the year, which were in line with United Nations resolutions.
Three of the ships - the Jin Hung 9, the Woory Star and the Kum Gang San 2 - had been due to dock since February, when China said it was halting all coal imports from North Korea for 2017 in accordance with a UN Security Council resolution passed previous year. The three have since left the port.
"If the ships are still at sea or outside a port, there will always be some mariners who need to be looked after for humanitarian reasons", Lu said.
He added that "nothing that violates the implementation" of sanctions had occurred.
At port were the Ryon Hwa 3, a Tanzania flagged cargo vessel owned by a North Korean shipping company that was sanctioned past year by the United States, and the North Korean flagged Woory Star.
Coal is North Korea's main export and an important source of foreign currencies for its fragile economy.
Such a contingency could include the risk of an armed conflict breaking out as tensions on the peninsula have risen in the wake of multiple North Korean missile tests.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests since the early 2000s, all of which have been roundly condemned by China.
The Chinese official also praised recent United States statements about "using whatever peaceful means possible to resolve the (Korean) Peninsula nuclear issue".
The US is seeing evidence that the Chinese military is preparing for a potential North Korea contingency.
One official said placing these aircraft on a higher alert status could reduce the Chinese Air Force's response time if they had to react to an incident in North Korea or elsewhere in the region.
During a recent visit to Japan, US Vice President Mike Pence called North Korea the "most risky and urgent threat" to the region and vowed any North Korean attack on US forces or their allies would be met with "overwhelming" force.
USA officials told ABC News on Wednesday that China had elevated the alert status of its land attack, cruise missile-capable bombers.
Given the close economic links between North Korea and China, US military officials have said that Beijing is critical to solving the North Korean situation, with President Donald Trump recently commending Chinese President Xi Jinping for Chinese efforts to curb Pyongyang's activities. North Korea has continued to engage in provocative behavior that is in defiance of global bans.
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