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N. Korea runs 'bad news' trade surplus: economists

Published on Mar 19, 2013 1:45 PM

SEOUL (AFP) - After decades in the red, North Korea may be running a trade surplus, according to two economists who warn that the breakthrough makes Pyongyang less vulnerable to pressure on its nuclear programme.

Dr Marcus Noland and Dr Stephen Haggard, both North Korea experts at the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics, say their research suggests the North's current account went into surplus in 2011.

In a posting on Tuesday on the institute's website, they said the improvement had come "largely on the back of expanding trade with China" and added that preliminary research also pointed to a 2012 surplus.

The findings will surprise many, given the North's reputation as a state wrecked by decades of mismanagement and ruinous spending on military hardware.

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