China says trade with North Korea rose 10.5pc in first half

China June exports, imports higher than expected: Report

While China has been angered by North Korea's repeated nuclear and missile tests, it also blames the United States and South Korea for worsening tension with their military exercises and not doing enough to get talks back on track, as Beijing has proposed.

In dollar terms, exports increased 11.3% year-on-year in June, the General Administration of Customs said.

But coal imports slumped by 75%, suggesting Beijing is gradually choking off North Korea's biggest source of foreign currency.

Furthermore, as coal exports have reportedly fallen, shipments of iron ore have spiked. Over the first six months of the year, steel exports fell by 28% to 41 million metric tons, a level not seen in years.

Last week U.S. President Donald Trump denounced China's trade with North Korea, saying it had grown nearly 40 percent in the first quarter, and cast doubt on whether Beijing was helping to counter the threat from North Korea.

Beijing was quick to pour cold water on the suggestion that the overall rise in trade suggested it was not complying with U.N. Security Council resolutions created to punish Pyongyang for its nuclear tests and missile launches.

"Simple accumulated data can not be used as evidence to question China's severe attitude in carrying out UN Security Council resolutions", Huang told a news briefing.

Monthly figures were more representative of the trend and China's imports from North Korea had been "falling sharply for four consecutive months since March", he said, including by 36 percent in March and 42 percent in April.

China has slashed imports of coal from North Korea even as overall trade between the countries continues to rise.

At the same time, Cui stressed that U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea did not constitute an embargo. The surplus with the United States was China's largest since October 2015.

China's ambassador to the United States has said reports of trade growth between his country and North Korea, in spite of global efforts to press Pyongyang to give up its nuclear and missile programs, give "a distorted picture".

"But we are sceptical that the current pace of imports can be sustained for much longer given the increasing headwinds to China's economy from policy tightening", the economist added.

China has always been the North's main diplomatic defender but increasingly expresses frustration with leader Kim Jong UN's provocative behavior.

Though Trump took a more conciliatory tone on the North Korea issue and China's role at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. It does not want a flood of millions of hungry refugees coming over its northeast border if the regime collapses, and it certainly does not want the 28,000 American troops now stationed in South Korea to be able to move all the way up the peninsula to the border with China.

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