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N Korea at crossroads

North Korean trade dipped 15% as sanctions tightened

Plunge in coal and mineral exports led 2017 decline

Trucks cross from North Korea into China. Trade between the two countries fell 13.2% in 2017.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- North Korea's trade with the outside world fell 15% in 2017 as international sanctions targeting Pyongyang's nuclear program took their toll.

The isolated state conducted $5.55 billion in trade last year with countries other than South Korea, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency said in a report Monday. North Korean exports dropped 37.2% last year.

Trade with China declined 13.2% to around $5.26 billion. Shipments of minerals and coal plunged 65%, leading the overall decline, as the United Nations Security Council tightened economic sanctions in response to Pyongyang's testing of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Apparel shipments fell 19%.

China accounted for 94.8% of trade with the North, while No. 2 trading partner Russia compiled just 1.4%.

Trade between the two Koreas has been virtually nonexistent since South Korea shut down cooperation at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in 2016. But the recent thaw in inter-Korean relations could lead to fresh economic exchange.

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