July 22 (UPI) -- Trade between China and North Korea declined by 69% from January to May as Pyongyang closed its borders in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Japanese press report.
The Nikkei reported Wednesday two-way trade tumbled year-on-year despite a turn toward gradual recovery in April. According to the report, Beijing's General Administration of Customs data show from January to May North Korea imported $295 million worth of goods from China.
At the same time, exports of North Korea goods to China fell by 81% to $18 million, year on year, the Nikkei said.
Chinese tourism to North Korea, a major source of revenue for Pyongyang before the shutdown, remains on hold, but operations could resume as early as November, the Nikkei reported, citing a China-based source who said a Pyongyang-based travel agency has made contact. The original plan was to reopen North Korea to Chinese tourism in July, but COVID-19 concerns have led to the postponement, according to the newspaper.
In China's Liaoning Province a representative of another travel agency said any tourism to North Korea remains unlikely until the end of the year, according to the Nikkei. Earlier this month, Kim Jong Un had claimed his country had attained "shining success" in combating the deadly virus, but also warned against letting down the country's guard against the disease.
North Korea tourism projects are being discussed again in South Korea, where the administration of President Moon Jae-in could be starting a new chapter in inter-Korea engagement.
Moon's unification chief nominee Lee In-young has said he supports individual South Korean tourism to the North. According to South Korean television network JTBC on Wednesday, the government held a private meeting with local travel agencies on the topic of North Korea tourism.
During the meeting, the South Korean government released specific itineraries, including a tour package estimated to cost about $2,170 per person, with stopovers in Pyongyang and Mount Myohyang, the site of North Korea's International Friendship Exhibition Hall, according to the report.