A North Korean soldier stands guard near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong.
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After nearly two months of negotiations between Washington and Beijing, China agreed Thursday to a U.S. proposal that would dramatically tighten existing restrictions on North Korea after its Jan. 6 nuclear test and recent rocket launch.China, which defended North Korea in the 1950-53 Korean War, is Pyongyang's closest ally and largest trading partner.China imported $852 million worth of North Korean coal last year and $73-million worth of iron ore, according to Chinese customs data.Last year, North Korean coal deliveries to China surged 26.9 percent to 19.63 million tons, making North Korea China's third-biggest supplier behind Australia and Indonesia. Jin Qiangyi of China's Yanbian University, near the North Korean border, told Reuters there was a "real possibility" such far-reaching sanctions on top of an already moribund economy could create a "humanitarian problem," and affect China's ability to safely implement the proposed sanctions.Much of North Korea's aviation fuel appears to come from China.
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