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North Korea nuclear crisis

China’s trade with North Korea sinks as UN sanctions cut business

October total at US$334.9 million, down almost 20 per cent from September

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 November, 2017, 4:52pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 November, 2017, 5:00pm

China’s trade with North Korea fell to US$334.9 million in October, its lowest since February as imports sank to their weakest in years, data showed on Thursday – the latest sign that tough new sanctions cut business with its isolated neighbour.

The total is down almost 20 per cent from September and compares with US$525.2 million a year ago, according to customs data.

The data represents the first whole month since the latest United Nations penalties came into force on September 5, banning Pyongyang from selling coal, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood abroad.

China takes aim at US sanctions on Chinese and North Korean companies

The world’s second-largest economy bought goods worth US$90.75 million from North Korea in October, down sharply from US$145.8 million in September and the lowest on government records going back to January 2014, data from China’s General Administration of Customs shows.

Exports plunged to US$244.2 million, the weakest since February. That compares with US$266.4 million in September and US$286.9 million in October last year.

Trade between the two countries has slowed this year, particularly after China banned coal purchases in February.

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un ‘snubs’ China in failure to repay diplomatic favour

But the pace and scale of the drop suggest the most recent curbs are hurting Pyongyang’s ability to sell some critical commodities to one of its chief trading partners.

The UN estimated the latest ban, imposed after its two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July, would slash North Korea’s US$3 billion annual export revenue by a third.

The data is also likely to underscore Beijing’s strongly stated stance that it is rigorously enforcing UN resolutions aimed at reining in Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear programmes.

The data comes as US President Donald Trump ramps up pressure on President Xi Jinping to tighten the screws further on Pyongyang, with steps such as limits on oil exports and financial transactions.

A more detailed breakdown by commodity will be released on Friday.