Latest coal export restrictions by UN add teeth to North Korea sanctions
A North Korean flag is pictured at its embassy in Beijing January 6, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The UN Security Council has imposed restrictions on North Korea's export of coal in a new set of sanctions announced on Wednesday. As per the latest sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear programme, coal exports to China will have to be slashed by about 60 percent, dealing a huge blow to the reclusive regime.

China has agreed to the sanctions, which have capped extensive negotiations with the United States, BBC reported. Under the latest sanctions unanimously approved by the Council, the exports of copper, nickel, silver and zinc will also be banned.

The crucial tilt in the balance for Kim Jong-un was the change in China's stance over North Korea's aggressive military posturing and nuclear and missile experiments. Beijing, the only the major ally of North Korea, traditionally blocked harsh actions against it fearing a meltdown in its backyard. However, the recent spate of nuclear tests and ballistic missile experiments forced China to toe a harder line.

The sanctions are an "unequivocal message that the DPRK must cease all the provocative actions and comply fully with its international obligations", UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. Pyongyang has been under UN sanctions since 2006.

The US said the sanctions are meant to pile "unprecedented costs" on the rogue nation that defies international pressure to cease its nuclear programme. "...No resolution in New York will likely tomorrow persuade Pyongyang to cease its relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons," said Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN.

"In total, this resolution will slash by at least $800 million per year the hard currency that the DPRK has to fund its prohibited weapons programs, which constitutes a full 25 percent of the DPRK's entire export revenues," Power said.

The greater restrictions on coal export will hit North Korea hard as coal is its top export earner. The UN resolution slashes slash coal export by about 60 percent with an annual sales cap of $400.9 million or 7.5 million metric tonnes, whichever is lower.