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China's pollution crackdown poses serious threat to North Korea's economy

China's move to turn away from coal as an energy source will put North Korean exports in a tight squeeze.

By Elizabeth Shim
China's pollution crackdown poses serious threat to North Korea's economy
A power plant in Xi'an, China. China's fight against coal-related pollution will affect the North Korean economy, which sends almost all its exports to its neighboring country. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

BEIJING, March 9 (UPI) -- China's crackdown on coal-related pollution will take a heavy toll on the North Korean economy, South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo reported Monday.

China's plan is to drastically reduce coal consumption by 160 million tons in the next five years. The plan, presented at the National People's Congress in Beijing, aims to reduce the fossil energy use that is contributing to severe pollution in big cities, The Australian reported.

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Countries exporting coal to China are all affected, but the plan could create an economic crisis in impoverished North Korea. Coal and iron-ore exports are two of North Korea's biggest exports to China, its biggest trading partner.

According to the Donga Ilbo, more than 97 percent of North Korean exports are shipped to China, and coal, iron ore comprise 60 percent of all North Korean exports.

China's anti-pollution policy is affecting North Korean cargo. A North Korean ship delivering coal to China was turned away at the coastal city of Rizhao on Feb. 27. The Donga Ilbo reported the coal did not satisfy China's environmental regulations.

The rising ban and other factors are placing the impoverished North Korean economy in a tight squeeze.

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On Thursday, North Korea notified South Korea of its decision to increase the minimum wage in the Kaesong factories. North Korea wants to raise monthly wages for workers from $155 to $164 but South Korea is refusing the wage hike.

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