China-North Korea trade rose 12.7 % in first quarter

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China-North Korea trade rose 12.7 % in first quarter

Despite the passing of tough United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea in March, bilateral trade between Pyongyang and Beijing increased by nearly 13 percent in the first quarter.

Huang Songping, a spokesman for China’s General Administration of Customs, said Wednesday in a briefing that total trade between Pyongyang and Beijing in increased by 12.7 percent from the previous year to 7.79 billion yuan ($1.2 billion), between January and March.

The spokesman added that China’s exports to North Korea rose to 3.96 billion yuan over the past three months, an increase of 14.7 percent.

In contrast, Beijing’s imports from Pyongyang decreased by 10.8 percent to 3.83 billion yuan.

The Chinese Ministry of Commerce last week announced measures to ban imports of coal, gold, titanium and rare earth minerals from North Korea as well as restrictions on airplane fuel exports to the country.

The restrictions follow UN Security Council Resolution 2270, adopted unanimously on March 2 by the 15-member council, which includes permanent member China.

The resolution imposed the strongest-ever sanctions on Pyongyang for its fourth nuclear test in January and long-range ballistic missile launch in March.

It had been expected that it would take about a month for Beijing to be able to begin implementing its sanctions because of time needed by Chinese customs to prepare the new restrictions.

Chinese exports to Pyongyang include electronics and agricultural goods, while imports from the North are mainly coal and iron ore.

The international community is closely watching to see how China implements the sanctions on Pyongyang to curb its nuclear and missile development programs.

Beijing’s involvement, as North Korea’s primary trade partner, is considered essential in order for the sanctions to be effective.

However, Huang said, “China on April 5 announced its measures to carry out sanctions on North Korea and immediately began to implement them. The first-quarter North Korea-China trade volume data is unrelated to the North Korea sanctions.”

He added that customs authorities plan to “enforce the UN resolution sternly.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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