China had banned imports of coal from North Korea in April last year, but had been making exceptions for those intended for household use, which led to criticism over the regulation’s effectiveness.

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China’s northeastern province of Jilin saw its imports from North Korea plunge nearly 15 percent in the first quarter of 2016 from a year ago, data showed Wednesday, dealing a fatal blow to the neighboring country’s moribund economy.

According to the Chinese customs data, Jilin’s trade with North Korea sank 14.7 percent on-year to US$176 million in the January-March mainly because of plunging imports.

Last month’s decrease is the biggest drop in China’s exports to North Korea this year.

Along with exports, China’s imports from North Korea also dropped by 5 percent from a year ago to come in at US$227 million, the data showed.

Remember, that coal that was already basically supposed to not be imported after last year’s sanctions (save for that generating revenue for humanitarian purposes).

And the imports of which was already supposed to be capped at a low monetary limit. Of course, as a usual caveat this time be different but whether or not this decision will be enforced, and how strictly, remains to be seen, to put it mildly.

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In yet another so-called “strong signal”, China’s commerce ministry said on Saturday it won’t be importing any more coal from North Korea for the rest of the year.

China’s total coal imports slumped 30 percent last year as the government emphasized other cleaner energy sources.

This, in turn, pushed down the domestic price of coal, also by 30 percent, and as a result, imports were less competitive and shipments to China dropped.

When the UN Security Council imposed the cap on coal trade, China was left with the question of how such a cap could be implemented. Is it able to track forward contracts or does it only know belatedly the level of coal trade after import figures come out?