SEJONG, Feb.1 (Korea Bizwire) - North Korea’s trade with China dipped nearly 15 percent last year apparently due to a chilly bilateral relationship between the two neighboring countries, a report showed Sunday.
The North-China trade volume reached US$4.9 billion in the January-November period, down 14.8 percent from $5.76 billion a year earlier, marking the first double-digit on-year drop since 2000, according to a report by state-run think tank Korea Development Institute (KDI).
Pyongyang’s shipments to its neighbor sank 12.3 percent to $2.28 billion over the cited period, while imports from China plunged 16.8 percent to $2.63 billion.
The trade between the allies has risen an average of 22.4 percent between 2000 and 2014. Only in 2009 and 2014 did it shrink on-year.
The KDI report attributed the sharp decline to sluggish raw material exports, as shipments of anthracite coal and iron ore fell 6.3 percent and 68.5 percent, respectively.
“The chilly relationship between Pyongyang and Beijing and a slowdown in the Chinese economy seemed to affect North Korea’s sluggish trade with China,” said the report. “North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year message, which called for using home-made products and rejecting foreign-made ones, also had some influence on the downbeat trend.”
The alliance between Pyongyang and Beijing had been described as being “forged in blood,” since China fought alongside North Korea in the 1950-53 Korean War. China is the only country that provides crude oil to the reclusive North.
But their political relations have become strained since 2013, partly because of the North’s defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons and a series of purges of pro-Chinese officials in North Korea.
For 2016, the KDI report noted that there is a higher possibility that bilateral trade will contract further following Pyongyang’s nuclear tests on Jan. 6, as the global community including the United Nations is set to impose sanctions against the reclusive regime.
“North Korean trade will be dragged down by international economic sanctions sparked by the North’s latest nuclear test in the first half of this year,” the KDI said. ” North Korea-China trade has shrank to some extent, following sanctions by the U.N.”