SEOUL, June 22 (UPI) — China’s trade with North Korea is declining and recent data indicate bilateral exchange fell nearly 13 percent year on year in May – a possible sign that Beijing has been following through with its commitments under United Nations Security Council sanctions.
The data from Seoul’s Korea International Trade Association, a government agency, showed that China imported about $176 million of goods from North Korea last month, Yonhap news agency reported.
That’s a decrease of 12.6 percent from May 2015.
In the same time period, Chinese exports to North Korea fell 5.9 percent to $239 million.
North Korea’s leading export to China, coal, plunged 26.9 percent, according to South Korean statistics.
That number conforms to general trends in bilateral trade.
Although China is North Korea’s most important trading partner, comprising more than 90 percent of Pyongyang’s economic exchange, North Korea’s trade with China also shrank for the first time in six years in 2015.
According to a report from the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, bilateral trade stood at $5.43 billion in 2015, down by 14.7 percent from 2014.
Pyongyang has been hit hard by sanctions after it conducted a fourth nuclear test in January and launched a long-range rocket in February.
Recent missile provocations also drew condemnations from the United States, South Korea and Japan on Wednesday.
Beijing has urged North Korea to denuclearize, but it has also been trying to engage Pyongyang in dialogue. Chinese President Xi Jinping met with a top North Korean envoy on June 1, and called for peace and regional stability.
On Wednesday, Beijing’s foreign ministry said it is closely monitoring the situation on the Korean peninsula.
Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the situation is “very complicated and sensitive.”