World Economy

China puts squeeze on North Korea as trade dries up

Key Points
  • Trade slows dramatically between China and North Korea
  • Gasoline exports to North Korea at tiny level
  • Chinese coal imports from North Korea now at zero
China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) shakes hands with North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.

Trade between China and North Korea looks to be slowing drastically, providing further evidence that Beijing may be bowing to U.S. requests to put pressure on the rogue state.

The world's second-largest economy imported and exported goods worth $456.16 million in July, down from $489 million in June.

The data, released by China's General Administration of Customs and analysed by Reuters, showed that just 120 tonnes of gasoline was shipped from China to North Korea in July.

By comparison the June figure was 8,262 tonnes.

This after state-owned China National Petroleum Corp suspended sales of fuel to North Korea in June over concerns about payments.

China slapped a ban on coal purchases from its border neighbor in June and therefore imported zero coal in July.

Iron ore imports from North Korea slowed by almost a quarter during the month and Reuters has reported that Beijing is now pressuring iron ore traders not to buy the commodity from North Korea.

"Too many soldiers to feed"

Meanwhile, a North Korean documentary maker has told the Guardian newspaper that there is risk of famine within the country as sanctions take hold.

"For one thing, there are too many soldiers to feed," Jiro Ishimaru said as he outlined how army rations were being sold off by senior soldiers to private citizens on the black market.

Ishimaru, who spoke to contacts in North Korea who are equipped with illicit mobile phones, added that the soldiers are struggling with their health.

"One of them told me that there was talk of war with the U.S., but that many North Korean soldiers are in poor physical condition and in no fit state to fight."

A mass rally held at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, on August 9, 2017.
KCNA | Reuters

Further sanctions on North Korea are due to come into effect in September after a United Nations Security Council vote.

On Wednesday, the Russian deputy foreign minister said sanctions should not be imposed on North Korea indefinitely.