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North Korean coal windfall boosts nuclear advance

Reuters

An employee walks between front-end loaders which are used to move coal imported from North Korea at Dandong port in the Chinese border city of Dandong, Liaoning province December 7, 2010.

SEOUL—North Korean coal prices have surged by 40% in value recently, boosting funds for Pyongyang’s advancing nuclear program and undermining U.S.-led efforts to force it into talks by choking its finances.

The price rise for North Korea’s biggest export item gives fresh significance to negotiations between the U.S. and China about tightening sanctions on North Korea in response to its nuclear activities. A focus of those talks, now underway at the United Nations, is how to close a loophole that allows North Korean coal to flow to China largely unhindered, diplomats say.

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