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Chinese Trade With North Korea Plummets In 2018
Beijing appears to have gone well beyond U.N. sanctions on its unruly neighbor, reducing its total imports from North Korea in the first two months this year by 78.5 and 86.1 percent, according to the latest trade data from China.
Trade with China is absolutely crucial to North Korea’s survival.
Estimates vary, but it is believed that roughly half of all transactions in the North Korean economy are made in foreign currencies, with the Chinese yuan being the most common.That gives Beijing tremendous leverage, though for political and national security reasons it has been reluctant to exert too much pressure on Pyongyang in the past.
Now, Beijing appears to be on board with President Donald Trump’s maximum pressure strategy, as bilateral trade between China and North Korea has dropped significantly.
According to the Daily Caller:
China reduced its imports from North Korea by 78.5 percent and 86.1 percent respectively in January and February, according to The Associated Press, citing the latest Chinese trade data. Furthermore, North Korea reduced its imports from China by 33 percent and 34 percent. The data are consistent with trading trends that began in the latter half of 2017, although it should be noted that neither China nor North Korea is known for economic transparency.
China has traditionally been North Korea’s economic lifeline, but over the past year, Beijing appears to have increased the pressure on Pyongyang by severing trade ties, halting financial and business services for North Korean companies, expelling workers, and upholding international sanctions.
It remains unclear whether such trends will continue going forward given improving bilateral relations between China and North Korea and rising tensions between Beijing and Washington over trade.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his first official state visit to a foreign country in late March, visiting Beijing to meet and hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. There are rumors that Kim requested that Xi help North Korea reduce the pressure on Pyongyang caused by tough international sanctions, the cornerstone of Trump’s maximum pressure strategy.”