According to Yonhap:
North Korea’s annual trade with its economic lifeline, China, fell 2.4 percent from a year ago in 2014, marking the first decline since 2009, data compiled by South Korea’s government trade agency showed Monday.
North Korea’s trade with China totaled US$6.39 billion last year, compared with $6.54 billion in 2013, according to the data provided by the Beijing unit of South’s Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA).
The annual trade figures between North Korea and China provided a fresh sign that strained political ties between the two nations have affected their economic relations.
At least on paper, there were also no shipments of crude oil from China to North Korea for all of last year.
A South Korean diplomatic source with knowledge of the matter, however, cautioned against reading too much into the official trade figures because China has provided crude oil to North Korea in the form of grant aid and such shipments were not recorded on paper.
I have been unable to locate the KOTRA report, but the Choson Ilbo adds this:
China’s exports to the North were down 3.1 percent on-year and its imports from the North 1.5 percent, the diplomatic source in Beijing said quoting Chinese trade statistics.
Yonhap followed up with this from a Chinese foreign ministry press briefing:
Asked about the official absence of crude oil delivery to North Korea, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, referred the question to “competent authorities.”
“You mentioned a specific issue concerning trade between China and North Korea. I would like to refer you to competent authorities,” Hua told reporters during a regular press briefing.
“But, I want to highlight that the economic cooperation and trade between China and North Korea are normal,” Hua said.
Yonhap also provided the following information on oil shipments from China to the DPRK:
In previous years, China’s official shipments of crude oil to North Korea had been absent for several months, particularly after the North’s nuclear tests. However, it was extremely unusual that, at least on paper, China sold no crude oil to North Korea for all of last year.
In 2014, China’s exports of petroleum products to North Korea jumped 48.22 percent from a year earlier to US$1.54 million, according to the data based on Chinese trade statistics and compiled by the Beijing unit of South’s Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency.
“Although final statistics show that China’s exports of crude oil to North Korea were counted as ‘zero’ in 2014, experts suggest that the possibility of China’s suspension of crude oil exports to North Korea remains low,” the agency said in a statement.
South Korean diplomatic sources in Beijing have also cautioned against reading too much into the official Chinese trade figures because China has provided crude oil to North Korea in the form of grant aid and such shipments were not recorded on paper.
There has been no clear indication that the 2014 trade figures reflect China’s willingness to use crude oil as leverage to press North Korea to change course in its nuclear ambition.
For lots more data on the DPRK’s international trade, see also these six great posts:
1. North Korea-China Trade Update: Coal Retreats, Textiles Surge
2. How Has the Commodity Bust Affected North Korea’s Trade Balance? (Part 1)
3. How Has the Commodity Bust Affected North Korea’s Trade Balance? (Part 2)
4. Nicholas Eberstadt’s “Dependencia, North Korea Style” (I would have gone with “Our Style Dependencia”)
5. NK News on coal shipments in 2014.
6. Radio Free Asia on coal shipments.
Read the full story here:
N. Korea’s 2014 trade with China marks 1st drop in 5 years