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NK imports from China spike in March

North Korean flag (AFP-Yonhap)
North Korean flag (AFP-Yonhap)

North Korea’s imports from China jumped in March amid growing speculation that Pyongyang may soon open its border and resume trade with its top ally, China.

North Korea’s shipments from China totaled $12.98 million in March -- a dramatic jump from February, when it logged $3,000 -- Chinese customs data released Sunday showed.

It marked the highest level since September 2020, when imports totaled $18.9 million. Since then the figure has nose-dived to nearly zero as the reclusive regime has implemented even stricter border control measures to stave off a COVID-19 outbreak on its soil, bringing trade with its largest economic partner to a practical halt.

Meanwhile, North Korea exported $1.3 million worth of goods to China last month, down from $1.75 million in February.

Early last year North Korea was one of the first countries to seal its borders, strictly limiting the movement of people and goods between the two countries, dealing a blow to an economy that was already fragile from the fallout from international sanctions.

Pyongyang continues to insist it has had zero COVID-19 cases, but many North Korea observers have cast doubt on the claim.

Recently, there have been signs that the North is ready to reopen its border with China, which accounts for more than 90 percent of the country’s trade. Pyongyang recently adopted a new law that requires all imported goods to be disinfected and also built a disinfection facility for import cargo in its border city Sinuiju.

According to reports, there are signs of North Korea-China trade being further expanded. NHK said a freight train was spotted in the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong, apparently headed for North Korea. Radio Free Asia said Chinese officials have been inspecting and repairing railroad tracks so trains between China and North Korea can start running from April.

By Ahn Sung-mi (