Despite Nuclear Tests North Korea-China Trade Continues to Rise

Daily NK
Kim Yong Hun

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Despite the nuclear test last October, trade between North Korea and China has increased steadily. Rather, signs of North Korea’s economic dependence on China is becoming more obvious.

According to statistics recently released by the Ministry of Unification, “2007 1st Quarter, North Korea’s trade status with China,” trade between the two countries recorded $330mn, a 13.8% increase compared to 2006. While North Korea exported $130mn worth of commodities, an increase of 45% compared to the previous year, imports equaled a total of $200mn, a small decrease of 2.4%.

Last year, trade between both North Korea and China totaled $1,699.6mn recording the highest amount of trade ever in history and even this figure had risen 7.5% compared to the year before.

Analysts argue that North Korea’s economic dependence on China is increasing as a result of sanctions implemented by the international community and delay of the February 13 Agreement.

Even until last year, the trade deficit had increased to $764.17mn, an increase of 29.9% compared to 2005. However, in the first quarter of 2007, the trade deficit seems to have taken a major plummet of 61.3% down to $74mn.

North Korea’s main trade commodities are fuel based including coal and minerals, accounting for $45mn (49% increase to 2006) of exports to China, and 34.7% of total exports. In detail, $33mn of minerals, $12mn of medicine, $7.7mn of steel and $6.2mn of fisheries are exported also.

On the other hand, goods imported into North Korea are again fuel based including petroleum and crude oil and account for $31mn (42.5% decrease to 2006) of imports. Further, machinery equates to $17mn of imports, electric appliances $16mn and filaments $11mn.

In the report, the Ministry of Unification indicated North Korea’s major export to China as coal and minerals and analyzed, “This is the result of China’s increased demands for economic growth.”

The Ministry reported, “The majority of imported goods are energy, electric appliances and machinery” and added, “Demand for these light industry goods have increased from an expansion in North Korea’s consumer market. Imports have risen as a result of materials necessary for industrialization.”

According to a report recently released by the U.S. Congressional Research Service (CRS) “North Korea’s Economy,” the amount of trade that occurred between the U.S. and North Korea barely reached $3,000 in 2006, the lowest figure ever recorded since 1990. The only items exported to North Korea were books and newspapers and no imports were received by the U.S, revealed the CRS.

Furthermore, 2006 recorded an all time low of $130mn trade between Japan and North Korea, undoubtedly a reflection of Japan’s strong implementation of economic sanctions on North Korea. Since 1995, Japan has been supporting North Korea with a total of 1.2mn tons of food aid but suspended the aid relief in late 2004 following the issue of Japanese abductees.

Russia’s exports of minerals and coal to North Korea surged dramatically in 2003 and in 2006, total trade with North Korea recorded $220mn. Hence, Russia became now one of the big three trading partners of North Korea with China, South Korea, the CRS reported.


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