ALSO READChina's fuel exports to North Korea slow again, but coal imports return - customs China's fuel exports to North Korea slow further - customs China trade with sanctions-struck North Korea up 10.5 percent in first half China imports no iron ore, coal, lead from North Korea in November: customs China's Xi says to accelerate market opening, expand imports: media
By Yawen Chen and Ryan Woo
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's imports from North Korea plunged in December to their lowest level in dollar terms since at least the start of 2014, with trade curbed by U.N. sanctions aimed at persuading Pyongyang to abandon its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.
Imports from North Korea 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.
"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 penalties that came into force on Sept. 5 last year banned countries from buying coal, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood from North Korea.
"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 China while others could only be imported from China," said Chen Fengying, an economics expert at state-backed China Institutes of Contemporary International 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 North Korea 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.
However, exports to the country rose 8.3 percent to $3.34 billion. The value was the highest since 2014.
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