June 29 (UPI) -- Shipping routes between China and North Korea are reopening after months of little to no activity, according to a South Korean press report.
Seoul Pyongyang News reported Tuesday that shipping channels between the Chinese port of Dalian and North Korea's Nampo port were active, citing a source in the Chinese border city of Dandong.
The source said the maritime route between Dalian and Nampo was blocked in early 2020 due to COVID-19, but regular shipping resumed Monday.
"Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, maritime routes and border trade were suspended," the source said. "Only emergency goods were transported."
Report of resumed shipping between the two close partners comes more than a month after data from the Port State Control Committee of the Asia-Pacific showed North Korean ships entering different Chinese ports.
North Korean ship Ryon Hwa 3 underwent an inspection at the Chinese port of Yantai on March 28. North Korean ships Minhaeho, Long Reach 5, and Jasong 2 were seen earlier this year either entering or about to enter the Chinese ports of Longkou, Dalian and Shidao, according to maritime intelligence provider MarineTraffic in April.
North Korea could be resuming regular maritime trade, but may be delaying reopening land-based routes. According to SP News' source, speculation exists in China that railways will begin operating freight trains on a "regular" schedule starting July 15.
Reopening land-based trade could be risky for North Korea, however. The presence of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in China could force the North to rethink plans, according to the report.
Kim Jong Un previously has warned of a food shortage in the country, and analysts have said the border blockade has added to the ongoing crisis.
Restrictions on foreign trade have impacted food availability as the price of staple goods, including rice, have jumped exponentially, according to William Brown, principal of consulting firm Northeast Asia Economics and Intelligence Advisory.