China granted over 41 billion won ($35.2 million) worth of aid to North Korea in the first eight months of this year amid a stalemate in denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang, according to sources Tuesday.
Its aid to North Korea is lkely to surpass that of last year, as more could be delivered in the fourth quarter following President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pyongyang in June, they noted.
Chinese maritime customs statistics showed that Beijing’s aid to Pyongyang amounted to about $35.14 million in the first eight months this year, with fertilizer aid accounting for the most share.
Crude oil, a restricted item under international sanctions against North Korea, and rice were not included in the aid figures.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (AP)
China delivered about 340 million won worth of aid to North Korea in the period, following Xi’s visit to Pyongyang in June, but the Chinese maritime customs statistics did not specify what items they provided.
The amount of aid from September has not been disclosed yet.
Last year, China provided $56.05 million worth of aid to North Korea, $55 million of which was for fertilizers, and $1 million for rice.
China did not grant aid to North Korea in 2017 when Pyongyang conducted numerous missile and nuclear tests.
In 2018, China provided aid after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visited China and met with Xi in March, May and June.
Considering that the two leaders exchanged visits this year, the 70th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties, observers say the size of China’s aid to North Korea could far exceed that of last year.
Japanese media outlets such as Asahi Shimbun reported earlier that China decided to provide 800,000 tons of rice to North Korea after Xi’s visit to Pyongyang, and the total volume of aid, including corn, would amount to 1 million tons.
Meanwhile, as the stalled denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang soured inter-Korean relations, North Korea has been refusing the 50,000 tons of rice that South Korea sought to offer through the World Food Program.
A source in Beijing told Yonhap News that China could provide large amounts of rice aid to help North Korea tackle food shortages in the winter.
As the two countries have not held any special events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic relations, Beijing is likely to offer greater aid than last year to appease Pyongyang, the source said.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org