Exclusive: China-N.Korea border remains closed despite signs of possible trade resumption
Published: Apr 22, 2021 11:09 PM

Photo taken on Sept. 8, 2018 shows an avenue decorated with national flags in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). (Xinhua/Jiang Yaping)

Photo taken on Sept. 8, 2018 shows an avenue decorated with national flags in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). (Xinhua/Jiang Yaping)

China and North Korea have yet to resume cargo and passenger traffic, but there are signs that trade may resume in the future, the Global Times has learned.

A report by Reuters citing a cross-border transportation company, claimed the bridge linking the city of Dandong with Sinuiju, across the Yalu River in North Korea, will partially reopen to allow cargo train service around May 1.

An official in port transportation management in Dandong told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that they have not received any notices to make preparations for border reopening, including epidemic control and prevention preparations.

On Thursday afternoon, the Global Times also learned from an employee from the Dandong Entry-Exit Border Inspection Station that cargo and passenger traffic are still temporarily closed.

Asked if China Railway has any information on the freight resumption between the two countries on Thursday, they said they're unclear over the matter.

The Global Times learned from sources that a batch of imported food was put on the shelf of a grocery shop in the diplomatic district of Pyongyang in recent days. 

"Just days earlier, the shop imported some products for daily use, such as cooking oil, milk power and seasoning," a source in Pyongyang said. Another source in Pyongyang confirmed there were only a few imported varieties on the shelves. Those imported products were sold out very quickly. "They are Chinese products," the source said.

Other stores in the capital city of North Korea have yet to see more imports, they said. 

But resuming freight traffic is probably soon to come, said Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences.

Lü, who had been to Dandong days earlier, told the Global Times that staff at border checkpoints have been disinfecting and cleaning cargo facilities, and he learned from Chinese companies that they started to prepare for trade resumption between China and North Korea. 

North Korea closed its border since the beginning of the epidemic. As spring plowing approaches, agricultural products like fertilizers may be in high demand, Lü noted.

A trade fair organizer, surnamed Qi, who had been organizing Chinese companies to Pyongyang international trade fair, told the Global Times that he's waiting for an official announcement.

"I believe North Korea wants to re-embracing Chinese market but they have to also take COVID-19 epidemic control into consideration," Qi said. 

Qi had been organizing Chinese business representatives to the Pyongyang international trade fair every year but the fair was suspended starting 2020 due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Many manufacturing-type enterprises from the southern part of China are also eyeing North Korea as a new emerging market for their products, according to Qi. 

Cargo vessels are suffering a loss due to the close of the border. Dandong has more than 100 registered vessels and 500 border trade vehicles engaging in trade with North Korea. The daily passage rate was 100 to 200 on average, the Global Times learned from the anonymous official from the port transportation department.

China and North Korea as friendly and close neighbors have a demand for normal economic and trade exchanges, Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson of Chinese foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

China respects North Korea's anti-epidemic measures and is ready to enhance exchanges and cooperation across the board with the country on the basis of ensuring safety in the context of COVID-19, Wang said.