TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's goods trade balance logged the first deficit in four months in May on sluggish exports to China amid Beijing's economic friction with the United States, government data showed Wednesday.
The deficit stood at 967.1 billion yen ($8.9 billion) with exports dropping 7.8 percent from a year earlier to 5.84 trillion yen, down for the sixth consecutive month, and imports declining 1.5 percent to 6.80 trillion yen, the first decline in three months, according to a preliminary report by the Finance Ministry.
Trade tensions between the world's two biggest economies escalated in the reporting month, with U.S. President Donald Trump imposing heavy sanctions on Chinese telecommunication giant Huawei Technologies Co., citing national security concerns.
Japan's China-bound exports, including semiconductor manufacturing equipment and auto parts, tumbled 9.7 percent from a year earlier for the third straight month of decline.
Imports from China dipped 0.9 percent, leaving Japan with a deficit of 391.7 billion yen against its largest trading partner.
Japan's trade surplus with the United States grew 14.8 percent to 395 billion yen, up for the third straight month, on solid demand for automobiles, although Trump hopes to reduce Washington's massive deficit with Tokyo.
With the European Union, Japan had a record trade deficit of 251.5 billion yen due to imports of aircraft from France.
Against the whole of Asia, including China, Japan's trade surplus plunged 94.1 percent due in part to a decrease in exports of tech-related manufacturing machinery to South Korea as major makers in the country adjusted their production.
The figures were compiled on a customs-cleared basis.