BEIJING — China has defended its recent imports of North Korean coal as permitted by U.N. sanctions imposed over the North’s nuclear and missile programs.

A Ministry of Commerce spokesman said Thursday that coal imports reported in August trade data were allowed by a “grace period” for goods that arrived before the U.N. ban took effect.

The spokesman, Gao Feng, said the imports are “in line with the (U.N.) resolution.”

U.N. sanctions ban member countries from buying coal and textiles from North Korea and require them to limit oil sales to the North.