North Korea

Chinese trade with North Korea drops by over 50 per cent despite thaw in relations

  • China exports to North Korea fell 33 by per cent in Jan-Nov period, while imports dropped by 88.8 per cent
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 December, 2018, 10:42pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 December, 2018, 11:14pm

China’s trade with North Korea shrank 52.9 per cent to US$2.2 billion in the period from January to November compared with the previous year, Reuters reported on Sunday.

Citing Chinese customs data, the report said imports from North Korea fell by 88.6 per cent to US$191.75 million in the period, while exports to North Korea dropped 33 per cent to US$2.01 billion.

The data showed that trade flows between the two communist neighbours had continued to slide after a 10.5 per cent drop in 2017 despite the easing of tensions on the Korean peninsula and a thaw in relations between Beijing and Pyongyang.

In November alone, China’s total trade with North Korea was valued at US$247.75 million. This was up slightly from US$245.34 million the previous month – but that marked a deep contraction from US$388 million in November 2017.

North Korea says it will not denuclearise unless US removes threat

China’s exports to North Korea in November were US$227.7 million, a figure that showed little change from October’s US$227.45 million in October.

Beijing is the country’s sole major ally and by 2016 it accounted for 90 per cent of North Korean trade after other countries gradually cut off ties.

However, relations with China began to deteriorate after North Korea began its nuclear weapons tests in 2006 and Beijing eventually gave its support to UN sanctions.

Last year China took the unprecedented step of imposing “strictest” sanctions on North Korea.

In addition to the UN Security Council Resolution 2375 passed in September 2017, China went further by stopping all imports of iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea and shutting down all North Korean-owned or joint venture businesses in China.

For a few months, starting in November 2017, all exports of oil products to North Korea have been banned, except for a tiny amount of jet fuel.

China visit by North Korean foreign minister aims to shore up support amid stalled denuclearisation talks

As the sanctions started to bite this year, North Korea dramatically changed trajectory.

Its leader Kim Jong-un began peace talks with South Korea and held a historic meeting with US president Donald Trump in Singapore in June.

Kim also made three visits to China – his first since coming to power in 2011 – as the two sides started to repair their alliance.

In the September, Nikki Haley, America’s ambassador to the United Nations, accused China of obstructing UN efforts to issue a report on the implementation of the sanctions against North Korea.

In response, Chinese foreign minister spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that China has “fully and strictly” implemented the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and fulfilled its international obligations.