China's trade with North Korea edges up in November

A Chinese flag is seen in front of the Friendship Bridge over the Yalu River connecting the North Korean town of Sinuiju and Dandong in China's Liaoning Province
A Chinese flag is seen in front of the Friendship Bridge over the Yalu River connecting the North Korean town of Sinuiju and Dandong in China's Liaoning ProvincePHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China's trade with North Korea edged up to US$388 million (S$524 million) in November but remained around its lowest levels this year, data showed on Saturday (Dec 23), as tough sanctions continue to slow business with its isolated neighbour.

The total is up 15.9 per cent from October's US$334.89 million but far lower than US$613.2 million a year ago, according to data released by China's General Administration of Customs.

While the data shows a monthly pickup, China's trade with North Korea has been slowing since the latest United Nations penalties came into force on Sept 5, banning Pyongyang from selling coal, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood abroad.

The world's second-largest economy bought goods worth US$100.18 million from North Korea in the last month, up from US$90.75 million in October but lower compared to US$262.2 million a year ago, data shows.

October was the lowest on Chinese government records going back to January 2014.

Exports totalled US$287.84 million in November up from US$244.2 million in October.

Trade between the two countries has slowed this year, particularly after China banned coal purchases in February.

But the pace of the drop has quickened as the most recent curbs hurt Pyongyang's ability to sell some critical commodities to one of its chief trading partners.

The UN estimated the latest ban, imposed after its two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July, would slash North Korea's US$3-billion annual export revenue by a third.

On Friday, the UN Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea for its Nov 29 intercontinental ballistic missile test aimed at limiting its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil as well as its earnings from workers abroad.

A more detailed breakdown of trade by commodity will be released on Monday.