April 23 (UPI) -- North Korean shipping vessels are active between China and North Korea and are receiving safety inspections overseas, monitoring shows.
Data from the Port State Control Committee of the Asia-Pacific showed the North Korean ship Ryon Hwa 3 was inspected at the Chinese port of Yantai on March 28, Voice of America's Korean service reported.
The inspection record is a first for North Korean vessels in about eight months. In July, a North Korea-flagged vessel left behind a safety inspection record at the Russian port of Vladivostok, the report said.
Information from maritime intelligence provider MarineTraffic showed other activity.
North Korean ships Minhaeho, Long Reach 5, and Jasong 2 were seen either entering or about to enter the Chinese ports of Longkou, Dalian and Shidao.
Other vessels, including the Taepyongsanho and the Jaryokho, were seen near the Chinese port of Weihai, according to VOA.
North Korean activity at sea could be resuming amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the regime remains on guard at its border with China.
North Korea's Korean Central Broadcasting Station said this week "strict measures" and disinfection of vehicles and people are ongoing at the border city of Hoeryong, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Wednesday.
Hoeryong faces China's Jilin Province -- home to China's ethnic Korean population.
A South Korean unification ministry official told Seoul Economic Daily on Monday that COVID-19 may have "significantly hindered" North Korea from importing goods.
Lu Chao, a Chinese analyst at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said last week that North Korea could be seeking to import fertilizer, tractors and other farm equipment for spring seeding season.
The food supply could be a critical issue for North Korea.
Last week, North Korean newspaper Minju Chosun said the intention of the Korean Workers' Party is to "completely solve" the "food problem" in the country.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service said the majority of North Koreans are struggling with food insecurity.