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Report: North Korea likely to reopen land trade routes with China

Report: North Korea likely to reopen land trade routes with China
North Korea’s trade with China was mostly conducted through the Chinese city of Dandong before the pandemic. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 9 (UPI) -- North Korea is likely to reopen suspended land-based trading routes with China after months of delays, according to a Japanese press report.

A source based in the Chinese city of Dandong, in Liaoning Province, told the Nikkei that information about the reopening came from North Korean officials. North Korea-China trade is likely to "resume at the end of the month," the source said.

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Dandong is an important point of exchange for the two countries. Close to 90% of North Korea's trade is conducted with China, and 70% of all China-North Korea trade took place through Dandong before the pandemic.

North Korea's closure of its borders since the start of the pandemic has led to a dramatic decline in activity, but the country may have left maritime routes open for emergency goods.

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Earlier this year, the Port State Control Committee of the Asia-Pacific showed North Korean ships entering different Chinese ports.

Activity has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels and could face a long road to recovery, however. According to Seoul's Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency, North Korea's total foreign trade fell by 73.4% to $863 million in 2020.

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The Nikkei also reported Monday that other trading company executives in Dandong are "not sure" about a border reopening, citing the surge in cases of the contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 in China.

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North Korea has attempted to resume land-based trade "several times" since April, but ultimately delayed a reopening because Kim Jong Un was concerned about the latest wave of the novel coronavirus in China, a China-based diplomatic source said, according to the report.

North Korea voiced concerns about the pandemic Friday at the ASEAN Regional Forum.

North Korean Ambassador to Indonesia An Kwang Il, who also is Pyongyang's envoy to ASEAN, said North Korea's response to COVID-19 was a success. The Delta variant spread in other countries because of "hasty" policy to lift restrictions, An said.

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"We will thoroughly prevent the spread of COVID-19 in North Korea," the North Korean diplomat said, according to Seoul Economic Daily Monday.

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