Data from China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC) has shown the sum of China’s trade with North Korea in the first half of this year to be $2.55 billion, a 10.5 percent increase compared to last year, Reuters reported on Thursday.
China’s imports from North Korea in the first half of this year, however, fell 13.2 percent to $880 million, while exports to the DPRK increased 29.1 percent to $1.67 billion, the data reportedly showed.
Huang Songping, a spokesperson for the GAC, was quoted as saying at a press briefing in Beijing that the increased exports, which took place between January to June this year, were primarily of textiles and other labor-intensive products.
The news follows remarks made by Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Cui Tiankai in Washington D.C. on Monday, in which he claimed that media reports that trade between China and North Korea had increased in the first quarter of this year gave “a distorted picture.”
“…Security Council sanctions against the DPRK do not constitute an embargo,” said Ambassador Cui, at the 7th U.S.-China Civil Strategic Dialogue at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. “Normal trade between China and the DPRK is not banned by these sanctions.”
“In fact, trade between China and the DPRK has been declining in 2015 and 2016,” said Cui, adding that “…imports from DPRK has dropped 41% in April and 32% in May year-on-year”.
GAC reported in April that first-quarter trade with North Korea had increased compared to last year, despite a ban on the import of North Korean coal by Beijing in February.
The remarks from Chinese officials come amid a cooling of relations between Beijing and Washington D.C. Geng Shuang, a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of China, on Tuesday accused “certain people” of “exaggerating and playing up” China’s role in supporting North Korea.
And in a tweet last Wednesday following North Korea’s successful test of the Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), President Donald Trump appeared to admit that efforts to encourage Beijing to take a stronger line against North Korea had failed.
U.S. officials have also recently stepped up efforts to impose secondary sanctions against Chinese individuals and institutions with links to North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. In late June the U.S. Treasury Department unveiled measures against a Chinese shipping company and two Chinese nationals, as well as proposing the exclusion of a Chinese bank from the U.S. financial system.
China reacted strongly to the move, with a foreign ministry spokesperson urging the U.S. to “correct the errors immediately” and warning that they would negatively affect cooperation between Washington DC and Beijing on the North Korean issue.
Trade between the two countries remains a lifeline for Pyongyang, constituting close to 90% of the DPRK’s overall annual foreign trade.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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