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China stresses 'normal' trade with N. Korea

All Headlines 17:33 January 27, 2015

BEIJING, Jan. 27 (Yonhap) -- China stressed Tuesday its "normal" trade relations with North Korea, but sidestepped questions over whether Beijing genuinely stopped shipping crude oil to Pyongyang for all of last year.

Bilateral trade between North Korea and China fell 2.4 percent from 2013 to US$6.39 billion in 2014, marking the first annual decline since 2009, data compiled by South Korea's government trade agency showed.

There were also no shipments of crude oil from China to North Korea last year, at least on paper. South Korean diplomatic sources have cautioned against reading too much into the official trade figures because China has previously supplied crude oil to North Korea in the form of grant aid and such shipments were not recorded on paper.

Asked about the official absence of crude oil delivery to North Korea, China's foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, referred the question to "competent authorities."

"You mentioned a specific issue concerning trade between China and North Korea. I would like to refer you to competent authorities," Hua told reporters during a regular press briefing.

"But, I want to highlight that the economic cooperation and trade between China and North Korea are normal," Hua said.

Last year's trade figures between North Korea and China provided a fresh sign that strained political ties between the two nations have affected their economic relations.

Political relations between North Korea and China remain strained, particularly after the North's third nuclear test in February 2013.

kdh@yna.co.kr
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