June 25 (UPI) -- Trade between China and North Korea has increased for three consecutive months, and Pyongyang has a trade deficit, according to South Korean estimates.
Seoul's Industrial Bank of Korea's North Korean Economy Research Center said Tuesday trade between North Korea and its most important trading partner increased year-on-year over the past three months, ending in May, News 1 reported.
The South Korean research report used trade statistics from the Chinese government, then parsed the gathered data.
North Korea's total trade volume with China reached $275.39 million in May, up 19.3 percent from May 2018.
North Korea imported more from China than it exported, causing a deficit. Exports reached $17.09 million and imports were valued at $258.29 million, according to IBK. Exports in May were up 25.2 percent year-on-year, and imports were also up, by 18.9 percent, from same time last year.
North Korea's import of goods from China has reached its highest level since November 2017, South Korean researchers said.
International sanctions against Pyongyang for nuclear weapons development had significantly lowered bilateral trade, but rising economic activity indicates China has become more willing to "influence North Korea" in a period of improved ties, the analysts added.
North Korea is also turning toward a greater dependency on China, according to the research.
North Korea's relationship to China has been historically described as "lips and teeth," a blood alliance forged during the 1950-53 Korean War.
In South Korea, various activist groups commemorated the 69th anniversary of the war on Tuesday, Yonhap reported.
Groups representing abducted South Koreans said the North must admit responsibility for the kidnappings, while progressive groups said historical war memorials should no longer frame North Korea as an enemy state.