07/20/2022, 12.22
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Fearing Covid-19, Beijing deals Kim a blow: no to full re-opening of borders

The Chinese do not trust North Korean assurances on containing the pandemic. The Dandong-Sinuiju railway, through which 70% of trade between the two sides usually passes, remains closed. Chinese citizens found trading with North Koreans must pay a fine of up to 43,000 euro.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Chinese government will not accomodate the demands of Kim Jong-un's regime and will not reopen the border to land trade between Jilin and Liaoning provinces and North Korea. China is still threatened by Covid-19 outbreaks and fears that widespread contact with the North Koreans could aggravate the situation.

Pyongyang claims to have brought the pandemic emergency that broke out in May under control. The authorities in Beijing do not trust the reassurances coming from the North Koreans, despite the fact that Kim has ordered draconian measures modelled on those in China to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

North Korea is internationally isolated, except by China and to some extent by Russia, which has been subjected for years to punitive measures decided by the UN Security Council for its nuclear and missile programme. The country is grappling with a chronic economic crisis, which the recent wave of Covid-19 infections and a series of floods have deepened.

90% of North Korean trade depends on trade with China. According to Chinese customs data, in the first six months of the year, bilateral import-export trade stopped at EUR 333 million: a 73% drop compared to the same period in 2019 - before the pandemic.

Under normal conditions, 70 per cent of trade between the two countries runs along the railway between Dandong in China and Sinuiju. Nikkei Asia reveals that Pyongyang asked for the route to be reopened, but received a Chinese refusal. In order to prevent the spread of Covid from China, the service was first blocked in January 2020 at the initiative of North Korea; reactivated in January this year, it was blocked again in April.

Currently, the only passage open for Sino-North Korean trade is Nampo, North Korea's port on the Yellow Sea. Chinese ships usually dock there from Shanghai or Dalian.

Daily NK,citing its own source on the Chinese side of the border, reports the Chinese authorities impose fines of up to 300,000 yuan (about 43,000 euro) on their own citizens found trading with North Koreans.

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