March 23 (UPI) -- China's decision to suspend all coal exports from North Korea was motivated in part by Beijing's willingness to carry over the excess of North Korea coal exported to China in December, according to a South Korean foreign ministry official.
The official, who spoke to local news service Newsis on the condition of anonymity, said a Chinese decision announced Feb. 18 to suspend all North Korean coal imports included an accounting of "excess" North Korean coal that was delivered to China in late 2016, according to the report.
"China is of the mind to carry over the excess of December [imports] to this year's upper limit," the official said.
China announced the measure a few months after the United Nations Security Council adopted a new sanctions resolution that would target North Korea's nuclear weapons program by tightening restrictions on coal exports.
Resolution 2321 also bans North Korea sales of copper, nickel, silver, zinc and even statues.
China agreed to play a key role in the agreement. All exports of North Korea coal would not exceed $400 million per annum or 7.5 million tons yearly.
In 2017, China has so far imported about $126 million of coal in January and $100 million in February.
While the total number of coal imported appears to be well below the annual quota, when the December data is included China reaches the upper limit of coal restrictions, the South Korean official said.
China was motivated to comply with the resolution because it is a permanent member of the Security Council, according to the official.