07/19/2021, 15.33
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COVID nightmare: Trade between China and North Korea collapses

Kim's regime claims no coronavirus cases in the country, while controls at the Chinese border remain strict. Some 20 trading officials are arrested. Trade between the two communist states is at its lowest since 2001. North Koreans could face food shortages as early as this August.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Trade between China and North Korea saw more decline.

Data released by Chinese customs yesterday show that Chinese exports to its neighbour fell by 85.2 per cent year on year to US.77 million in the first six months of 2021.

This is the lowest level since 2001, when China began to release the statistics.

The drop is due to border controls set up by North Korea to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the scepticism of the international scientific community, North Korea continues to deny that any North Korean was infected with the coronavirus.

On 29 June, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did mention however a "serious accident" in the country.

Neglect by officials of the Korean Workers' Party (in power since the end of the Second World War) undermined the safety of the population and the country’s efforts against the pandemic.

The situation along the border with China is tense as evinced by the arrest of 20 officials with trading companies, accused of importing and distributing Chinese products without following proper quarantine procedures.

The Daily NK reports that one of the sanctioned companies handles the Kim family's slush funds.

Chinese imports of North Korean goods also fell sharply, down by a 67.3 per cent, for a total of about US.96, another negative record in trade between the two communist countries.

According to the South Korean Unification Ministry, trade between North Korea and China had already dropped by 70 per cent in the first eight months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

In terms of monthly figures, China exported US.32 million of goods to North Korea in June, nearly six times the US.71 million the previous month but this was still a year-on-year decline.

Last month, Kim said that the country had not met its cereal production targets, a consequence of COVID-19 and major typhoons in 2020.

North Korea’s strongman stressed that the population will face a difficult food situation. According to United Nations estimates, North Korea’s food supplies will fall short by 860,000 tonnes this year, with shortages appearing as early as this August.

North Korea’s large trade deficit vis-à-vis China confirms its political and economic dependence on its neighbour.

In 2019, bilateral trade represented 95.4 per cent of North Korea’s foreign trade, up from 67.1 per cent in 2007.

Because of international sanctions against Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programmes, Beijing is the only true partner of Kim’s regime.

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