December 07, 2023

Sino-North Korean Trade at Record High Despite Beijing Criticism

While China uses its public voice to openly criticize North Korea's nuclear test, behind-the-scenes trade is at a record high.

Following North Korea’s nuclear test this week, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement that the Chinese government “is firmly opposed” to the test and that “China always supports the denuclearization of the Peninsula,” actively criticizing the actions of Pyongyang in more stronger terms than usual.

The test led some Chinese analysts, and more than a few Weibo (Chinese Twitter) users, to call for China to seriously reevaluate its North Korea policy. But trade figures reported by Japanese news service Kyodo last week reveal why China may be reluctant to do so. Despite crippling sanctions related to the North’s missile and nuclear programs, some of which China has agreed to enforce as a member of the UN Security Council, bilateral trade between the two has increased to a record high of $6.03 billion - twelve times the 2000 total.