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China's imports from North Korea plummet in December, lowest for 4 years

Imports from North Korea slumped 81.6 per cent year-on-year to $54.34 million

Reuters  |  Beijing 

Trucks cross the Friendship Bridge on the Yalu river from Sinuiju, North Korea, to Dandong, Liaoning province, China. Photo: Reuters

China's imports from plunged in December to their lowest level in dollar terms since at least the start of 2014, with trade curbed by UN sanctions aimed at persuading Pyongyang to abandon its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Imports from slumped 81.6 percent year-on-year to $54.34 million, Chinese customs spokesman Huang Songping said in a briefing in Beijing on Friday. That's the smallest monthly value since at least January 2014.

The administration of US President Donald Trump welcomed signs that China, North Korea's main economic partner, was "sharply reducing" trade with its neighbor.

"This action supports the United States-led global effort to apply maximum pressure until the North Korean regime ends its illicit programs, changes its behavior and moves toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula," the White House said.

The United Nations began imposing sanctions on in 2006, but tougher measures were invoked in 2017 as tensions flared anew over the country's nuclear and missile programmes.

The penalties that came into force on Sept. 5 last year banned countries from buying coal, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood from

In November, imported no iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea, the second full month of the U.N. trade sanctions.

"In terms of how big of an impact it (falling trade) had on North Korea, there was definitely impact because some of their products could only go to while others could only be imported from China," said Chen Fengying, an economics expert at state-backed Institutes of Contemporary Relations.

"You have to understand it was the most tense period for bilateral ties, and foreign relations determine trade relations."

China, the main source of North Korea's fuel, did not export any gasoline, jet fuel, diesel or fuel oil to its neighbour in November.

China's exports to in December declined 23.4 percent from a year earlier to $260 million, Huang told reporters.

Compared with a month earlier, exports fell 9.7 percent.

In November, stopped exporting oil products to North Korea, after the UN Security Council that month imposed new caps on trade with North Korea, including limiting oil product shipments.

For 2017, China's imports from dropped 33 percent to $1.72 billion, the lowest value in at least four years.

However, exports to the country rose 8.3 percent to $3.34 billion. The value was the highest since 2014.

Non-commodities that exports to included electronics, plastic products and garments.

Chinese customs will formally release data for trade with in the second half of the month, along with a breakdown by product.

First Published: Fri, January 12 2018. 23:22 IST