Chinese trade with North Korea dropped 50% last month

By BLOOMBERG

BEIJING • China’s trade with North Korea shrank by more than half last month, as Beijing implements United Nations (UN) sanctions against Kim Jong-un’s nuclear weapons programme.

The value of Chinese goods exported to North Korea last month fell 23% year-on-year (YoY), according to data released last Friday by China’s General Administration of Customs. Imports from the country also plunged 82% in December. All told, trade between the two sides fell almost 51% during the month.

In 2017 as a whole, China’s overall trade with North Korea declined by more than 10% to about US$5 billion (RM19.85 billion), as US President Donald Trump secured Beijing’s backing for four escalating rounds of sanctions. The US sees cutting off North Korea’s economic ties with China — the country’s dominant trading partner — as essential to forcing Kim back to the negotiating table.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement last Friday that the administration “is pleased that China is sharply reducing its trade with North Korea”, adding that the action “supports the US-led global effort to apply maximum pressure until the North Korean regime ends its illicit programmes.”

China has “closed some sanctions gaps”, Brian Hook, director of policy planning for US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, told reporters in Washington last Thursday.

“They are doing a better job of implementing the UN Security Council resolutions.”

After North Korea tested its most powerful nuclear device yet and launched missiles capable of reaching the US, the UN Security Council imposed a series of sanctions restricting oil imports and cutting off about 90% of its export revenue. The latest round passed last month.

North Korea’s first talks with South Korea in more than two years turned tense last Tuesday, after representatives of President Moon Jae-in proposed discussions with Kim about giving up his nuclear weapons programme. While China says they support a denuclearised Korean Peninsula, Beijing has resisted sanctions so harsh that they might cause widespread suffering or topple Kim’s regime.