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N. Korean trade with China falls slightly in first half of 2009

All Headlines 11:44 September 23, 2009

By Kim Hyun

SEOUL, Sept. 23 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's trade with China declined slightly during the first half of this year, likely due to falling prices of crude oil, a South Korean agency and officials said Wednesday.

Trade volume during the January-June period totaled US$1.1 billion, down 3.7 percent from a year earlier and the first decline since 1999, the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) said in an emailed release that cited official Chinese data. The drop was in striking contrast with a 41 percent increase during the same period last year and a 16 percent gain in 2007.

North Korea was put under U.N. sanctions for its nuclear test in May, barring its weapons trade and strictly limiting cash flows into the country. The sanctions, however, do not appear to have affected North Korea's trade with China, an official at South Korea's Unification Ministry said.

Prices of crude oil, which account for a quarter of North Korean imports from China, subsided this year after steep hikes in 2007 and 2008, said Jeon Dong-myeong, a ministry official overseeing North Korean trade.

"It's not a steep decline. The 3.7 percent decline in trade volume can arise from price differences," Jeon said.

North Korean imports from China amounted to $750 million, down 8.4 percent, while exports increased by 8.2 percent to $352 million, according to KOTRA.

By item, North Korea's crude oil imports showed the steepest decline of 54 percent, or $111 million.

Food imports slightly increased to $23 million, and fertilizer imports considerably grew to $11.9 million, close to the amount the North brought in during all of 2008, $12.7 million.

Despite the international sanctions on the country, North Korea's trade with Germany gained by 46.53 million euros during the first half of this year, according to KOTRA. Citing Germany's figures, it said trade volume was up 160 percent from the same period last year, and up 30 percent from the total trade volume the two countries registered for last year.


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