China-NK Q1 trade data must be read fairly

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/7 0:03:40

Trade between China and North Korea grew by 37.4 percent in the first quarter of this year and the data drew dissatisfaction from US President Donald Trump and other US government officials recently. This figure was released by China Customs on April 13, yet the latest figures released by China's Ministry of Commerce on Tuesday showed China-North Korea trade grew by 13.7 percent from January to May, suggesting a downward trend in April and May.

China-North Korea trade recorded negative growth of -2.57 percent and -14.9 percent in 2014 and 2015, and declined another 2.5 percent in 2016. The three figures show that bilateral trade has been going down in recent years.

China and North Korea border each other with convenient road and rail connections, yet the annual volume of China-North Korea trade, approximately $5 billion, is the lowest among trade volume among other neighboring countries, standing at about the same as Mongolia's, whose population is less than one-eighth of North Korea's.

China strictly implemented sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, which apparently has affected trade with North Korea. First quarter data cannot speak for the whole year. The trade volume for 2017 is unlikely to grow significantly from last year.

America's public opinion mistakenly depicts UN sanctions on Pyongyang's nuclear and missile activities as a total embargo. Beijing has been strictly implementing UN-imposed sanctions, but meanwhile stresses that normal trade activities with Pyongyang, especially those concerning people's livelihoods and that reflect the principles of humanitarianism, should not be affected by sanctions. Beijing is enforcing its coal ban on Pyongyang seriously, an epitome of the country's attitude to UN sanctions.

The past boom time of China-North Korea border town Dandong is over, and many Chinese companies doing business with North Korea closed down following the sanctions.

Humanitarianism is increasingly prominent in China-North Korea trade. For instance, China's grain exports to North Korea in the first quarter of this year are four times that of the corresponding period last year.

Some people in the US, South Korea and Japan may expect the sanctions to collapse North Korea's economy, but destitution, pushing Pyongyang's regime to its limit, and humanitarian crisis are not what the UN resolutions are intended to do, nor what the Chinese public wants.

Beijing will never export materials to Pyongyang that could be used for nuclear and missile activities. China's Commerce Ministry announced restrictions on trade with North Korea in April, and any Chinese company breaching the prohibition list will not be forgiven by public opinion or by the law.

China and the US should communicate further on the sanctions and narrow down their divergences.

The growth of 37.4 percent is somewhat unexpected, but it only stands for one-quarter. It would be best if the authorities concerned could foresee the reaction from the West caused by this figure and brief the public earlier.

China's appliance with UN resolutions is recognized, and the limited effects of the sanctions are not surprising. Washington should face the fact that intensifying sanctions is not a fundamental solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis.



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