July 9 (UPI) -- Land-based trade could resume between China and North Korea in late July after months of little to no activity, according to a Japanese press report.
Yomiuri Shimbun reported Friday that the reopening of a China-North Korea railway could take place later this month, citing a Chinese trade official at the border. The source said the North Korean authorities reached out to China to notify them of their plans to resume activity.
Trains running between the Chinese city of Dandong and the North Korean border town of Sinuiju are expected to transport into the North essential supplies, including food, chemical fertilizers and medication. The goods are expected to undergo a weeklong "quarantine" at a facility before being distributed inside North Korea, the report said.
Kim Jong Un warned last month the country faces a "tense" food shortage. Yomiuri's source said that there are rumors that in Pyongyang there are "people who can only eat one meal a day.
"They seem to be starving," the source said.
Shipping routes have reopened but maritime trade has been limited to a few ports. Ships leaving North Korea's Nampo port may have been docking at the Chinese port of Dalian, according to Seoul Pyongyang News last month.
North Korea has been blocking trade because of the coronavirus pandemic. Kim has blamed officials for a "grave incident" connected to COVID-19.
It is unclear whether an outbreak has occurred, however.
Lee Sang-keun, director of strategic research on the Korean Peninsula at Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul, said Friday that North Korea's decision to hold large meetings without masks is an indicator that the country has not had a problem containing the virus, South Korean news service Newsis reported.
The resumption of land-based trade could be postponed until a later date. According to Yomiuri's source, the "sense of crisis over COVID-19 in North Korea is deep-rooted" and could delay plans, the report said.