SEOUL, July 21 (UPI) — China has canceled a major trade fair at the border city of Dandong, a decision that could impact North Korea‘s commercial interests.
The Chinese side notified the North Koreans the DPRK-China Economic, Trade, Cultural and Tourism Expo would not be held in October, Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported Thursday.
The event has been held annually since 2012 and is hosted by the city of Dandong and Chinese companies, South Korean news service News 1 reported.
The fair attracted more than 100 North Korean enterprises in 2014 and $1.36 billion worth of contracts were reported signed in the areas of sales, trading and investment.
Dandong had stated in January the plan was to go ahead with the fair in October.
The abrupt cancellation of a trade expo with significant influence on North Korean commerce could be a “big blow” to Pyongyang, according to multiple sources who spoke to The Asahi on the condition of anonymity.
A Chinese expo official separately confirmed that the 2016 fair would not be held in October. Reasons for the cancellation were not given.
But the announcement comes at a time when China is developing other ways to reach out to North Korea, currently under heavy sanctions.
Dandong recently began offering convenient half-day tours of North Korea that do not require travelers to bring passports or apply for visas.
Local Chinese media also reported Wednesday regional authorities agreed to launch an economic cooperation zone between border cities, a decision that could affect trade with North Korea.