Growth of N. Korea-China trade tumbles to five-year low

From Yonhap:
Byun Duk-kun

The increase in the first-half trade between North Korea and China fell to the smallest volume in five years, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Monday.

Ministry officials said the slowdown did not appear to be linked to North Korea’s recent provocations, such as the test-firing of seven ballistic missiles in early July.

The amount of North Korea-China trade only increased 4.7 percent on-year to US$780 million in the January-June period, Kim Nam-sik, head of the ministry’s information and analysis bureau, told reporters.

This marked the smallest, as well as the first slowdown of, increase in trade between the close allies since 2002 when trade volume increased by 6.2 percent for the same period from a year before.

The year-on-year growth in the first-half Sino-North Korea trade reached 16.2 percent in 2003, 37 percent in 2004 and 43 percent last year, according to Kim.

The report comes amid reported signs that Beijing may have begun taking measures to reduce or limit its economic cooperation with Pyongyang as a way of expressing its dismay or anger at the North for its test-firing of seven ballistic missiles on July 5.

The ministry official, however, cautioned against interpreting the slowdown as signs of a possible disruption in relations between the communist allies, saying the reason for the slowdown appears to be economic rather than political.

“Many experts believe it (the slowdown) is more due to economic than political reasons,” Kim said.

The amount of North Korea’s exports to China for the first six months of the year decreased by more than 14 percent to some $200 million, also marking the first decline since 2000, according to a report by the information bureau.

Kim said this, too, was mainly because of economic reasons, such as the reduced price of North Korean exports to China “while the amount of exports remains the same” from that of last year.

Analysts here believe China may completely halt its economic and political relations with the North if Pyongyang decides to conduct a nuclear test.

The ministry official said there were no immediate signs of China taking such measures to punish North Korea.


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