China’s trade with North Korea fell 60% in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same period last year, falling to $483 million, customs data has today revealed.
The dip comes as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un prepares for historic summits with US President Donald Trump and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in.
Both imports and exports between China and North Korea saw sharp declines, with Beijing’s imports from Pyongyang falling 87% in the first quarter from the year before, while Chinese exports to the country dropped 46%.
In March, China’s total trade with North Korea was $157 million, with $144 million worth of goods crossing the border towards Pyongyang and $12 million coming towards Beijing.
In the first quarter, China imported a total of $71.31 million worth of goods from North Korea and exported $426 million.
The data, reported by Reuters, follows an announcement by Beijing earlier this month to impose fresh restrictions on imports of coal from North Korea.
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The efforts, aimed at boosting China’s domestic thermal coal industry, have caused a sharp decline in the volume of inbound coal shipments.
On Sunday, Trump fired off fresh tweets saying a resolution to the nuclear crisis with North Korea was a “long way” off, in what can be seen as a tough negotiating stance in the run-up to a planned summit with Pyongyang.
We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t – only time will tell.
In another tweet, he defended the US bargaining position.
Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake News NBC just stated that we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing. Wow, we haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2018
The posturing came a day after North Korea pledged to halt nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles starting from 21 April.
The statements, made through state-broadcaster KCNA on Saturday, added that the country plans to also “shut down a nuclear test site in the country’s northern side to guarantee transparency in suspending nuclear tests.”
Kim Jong-un was quoted as saying the “nuclear test site has done its job.”
The move marks the first time that North Korea has promised to take concrete steps to follow through with dismantling the country’s nuclear arsenal, after signalling it was open to it.
The news also diffuses the looming threat of nuclear confrontation between North Korea and the US after Trump mocked the North Korean leader, saying he has a “bigger and more powerful” nuclear button than Kim.
Trump welcomed Pyongyang’s announcement via Twitter.
A message from Kim Jong Un: “North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles.”
Also will “Shut down a nuclear test site in the country’s Northern Side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear tests.” Progress being made for all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2018
Meanwhile, South Korea has stopped broadcasting anti-Korean propaganda via loudspeakers along the border with North Korea, ahead of high-level talks later this week.
North Korea broadcasts its own propaganda along the border, playing reports critical of Seoul and its allies.