Chinese imports of North Korean commodities halved in December compared to the previous month, according to recently released data from China’s General Administration of Customs (GAC).
The final month of the year saw China import USD$54.68 million worth of commodities from North Korea, roughly half of the previous month’s USD$100 million.
Exports of commodities to the North by the PRC also fell, from USD$287.84 in November to USD$257.73 million in December.
“There are still other economic exchanges between China and the North,” Lee Yong-hwa, a researcher at the Hyundai Research Institute, told NK News, saying that “unofficial trade” likely continued.
“Unofficial trade still supports [the North’s economy],” he continued. “Hence, it will not cause any negative impact on the North’s economy in the short term.”
“Considering the North’s markets and distribution network, the North’s domestic market seems not to shrink, despite the decreased official trades.”
November saw China’s total commodity trade with the North increase for the first time since August, reaching USD$388 million, an increase of USD$53.1 million from the previous month.
China’s total commodity trade with North Korea steadily decreased in 2017, falling to USD$412 million in October.
The decline comes amid numerous international sanctions targeting the trade in commodities between the two countries, as North Korea has sped up its nuclear and missile development.
Resolution 2371, adopted by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on August 5, banned North Korea from supplying, selling, or transferring coal, iron, iron ore, seafood, lead, and lead ore to other countries. Iron and coal had formerly been two of North Korea’s most valuable commodity exports.
On September 11, the UNSC adopted Resolution 2375, banning the supply, sale, or transfer of condensates and natural gas liquids to North Korea and sanctioning the country’s textile exports, including fabrics and apparel products.
The resolution also banned the supply, sale, or transfer to North Korea of all refined petroleum products exceeding 500,000 barrels during an initial period of three months beginning October 1 and exceeding 2 million barrels per year beginning January 1, 2018.
Most recently, on December 22, the UNSC issued Resolution 2397, which further cuts the North’s supplies of both refined fuel products and crude oil by 89 percent, a move which will affect both China and Russia, North Korea’s long-standing energy patrons.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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