More dire trade figures for North Korea

By Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein

Amid speculation on when trade flows between North Korea and China might again be restored, new numbers show a significant dip in trade between the two countries in October. According to new Chinese customs figures, trade fell 40 percent between September and October, after a fairly steady but moderate climb in the months before.

Officially recorded trade, that is. There is likely a limit to what quantities of bulky goods such as coal can be smuggled, but it would be surprising, given China’s demand for coal at the moment, if total Chinese imports from North Korea during the last month weren’t higher than reported. North Korean coal is relatively cheap and China is virtually a monopoly buyer.

At the same time, these numbers do break the general but modest trend of increasing trade in the months before. While the construction of quarantine facilities and refurbishments of the cross-border infrastructure do indicate that trade might resume in a not too distant future, when this might be still remains an open question.

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