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China January trade with North Korea falls to lowest since at least June 2014

Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's January trade with North Korea fell to the lowest level since at least June 2014, the latest sign that China has kept up pressure on its isolated neighbor in line with United Nations trade sanctions.

China remains North Korea's largest trading partner and sole major ally, though overall trade has fallen in recent months as the sanctions take effect.

Trade between China and North Korea totaled $215.97 million in January, down 52 percent from the year-earlier period and 31 percent month-on-month, final trade numbers from the General Administration of Customs showed on Friday.

The United States has led an international campaign to tighten sanctions on North Korea to force it to give up development of nuclear weapons and missiles capable of hitting the United States.

China has backed successive rounds of sanctions but has been wary of U.S. efforts to toughen these further and has been accused by U.S. officials of not fully implementing existing U.N. steps.

The Trump administration plans to announce on Friday what is being billed as the largest package of sanctions yet against North Korea to increase pressure on Pyongyang for its nuclear and ballistic missile tests, a senior administration official said.

China's exports to North Korea totaled $168.88 million in January compared with $257.73 million in December, while imports from North Korea were $47.09 million versus $54.68 million in December.

Data set to be released by China on Saturday will provide more detail on imports and exports of specific products to and from North Korea, shedding more light on which shipments were affected.

Beijing imported no iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea, and exported no oil products except for a tiny amount of jet fuel, in December, the third full month of the latest United Nations trade sanctions.

(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk and Elias Glenn; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)