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China trade with sanctions-struck North Korea up 10.5 percent in first half

Reuters  |  BEIJING 

By Fang Cheng and Ben Blanchard

(Reuters) - China's with isolated North Korea rose more than 10 percent in the January-June period from a year earlier, a Chinese official said on Thursday, amid pressure from the United States for to pressurise its troublesome neighbour.

Last week U.S. President Donald Trump denounced China's with North Korea, saying it had grown almost 40 percent in the first quarter, and cast doubt on whether was helping to counter the threat from North Korea.

has repeatedly said it is fully enforcing United Nations sanctions on nuclear-armed North Korea and there is nothing wrong with what it terms "normal" with Pyongyang, referring to areas not covered by sanctions.

Chinese customs spokesman Huang Songping told a briefing on China's overall figures that total with North Korea expanded by 10.5 percent to $2.55 billion in the first six months of the year.

While China's imports from North Korea dropped 13.2 percent to $880 million in the period from January to June, exports to North Korea rose 29.1 percent to $1.67 billion, he said.

The exports were largely driven by textile products and other traditional labour-intensive goods not included on the United Nations embargo list, Huang added.

"As neighbours, and North Korea maintain normal business and exchanges," he said, adding that goods for ordinary people and those used for humanitarian reasons are not subject to sanctions.

Overall growth with North Korea slowed in June, compared with previous second-quarter months.

in dollar terms with North Korea rose about 12 percent in June from a month earlier to $499 million, according to calculations based on previously released data.

The calculations do not reflect revisions to earlier figures that may not have been announced.

In May, with North Korea gained 14.5 percent from April to $443.5 million, previously released customs data show.


Numbers showing an increase are not evidence that is failing to enforce U.N. resolutions, with imports from North Korea falling every month since March, Huang added.

suspended imports of North Korean coal in February, while imports of iron ore accord with relevant U.N. resolutions, he said.

"customs have all along fully, accurately, conscientiously and strictly enforced relevant Security Council resolutions."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said U.N. resolutions did not cover iron and iron ore for civilian purposes, warning against confusion over U.N. sanctions being viewed as comprehensive sanctions on North Korea.

"For to maintain normal economic relations with North Korea does not violate U.N. resolutions," he told a daily briefing.

Adding to the potential for further U.S.-friction, had a $25.4-billion surplus with the United States in June, up from $22.0 billion in May, customs data showed. The surplus with the United States was China's largest since October 2015.

While has been angered by North Korea's repeated nuclear and missile tests, it also blames the United States and for worsening tension with their military exercises and not doing enough to get talks back on track, as has proposed.

Though Trump took a more conciliatory tone on the North Korea issue and China's role at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday, has begun taking a harder rhetorical line with Washington in the past few days.

China's Foreign Ministry this week urged a halt to what it called the "responsibility theory" on North Korea, saying all parties needed to pull their weight.

between and North Korea has declined in both 2015 and 2016, a senior government-backed academic said in a front-page comment in the overseas edition of the official People's Daily on Wednesday.

"Certain countries have no right to make wanton criticisms of China," wrote Su Xiaohui of the Foreign Ministry think-tank, the Institute of International Studies.

An "unexpected" jump in first-quarter between and North Korea masked a declining trend, the state-run Global Times newspaper said last week.

(Additional reporting by Ryan Woo, Philip Wen and Stella Qiu; Editing by Sam Holmes and Clarence Fernandez)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)