January 13, 2018 3:16 am JST

Chinese trade with North Korea shrinks under sanctions

Imports plunge 81% in December, but doubts over enforcement remain

OKI NAGAI, Nikkei staff writer

Trade between China and North Korea has slowed dramatically in recent months.

BEIJING -- China reported a steep decline in imports from North Korea last year, suggesting that Beijing is abiding by international sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests.

Overall Chinese trade with North Korea dropped 10.5% on the year to $5.06 billion in 2017, according to customs statistics issued Friday. Imports dropped 33% to $1.72 billion, plunging 81.6% on the year in December alone. Though exports rose 8.3% to $3.34 billion for the year, a 23.4% decline was reported for December.

The sharp drop-offs presumably reflect the impact of United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions restricting oil supplies to North Korea and banning trade in its major exports, such as iron ore and seafood.

Though Beijing says it is fully complying with these measures, diplomatic sources remain concerned about loopholes. North Korean fishery products are reportedly still on the Chinese market, and China is believed to be supplying its neighbor with crude oil via covert channels that do not appear in official trade statistics.

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