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China July trade with North Korea slows from June as coal ban bites

[BEIJING] China's trade with North Korea fell in July from a month earlier, data showed on Wednesday, as a ban on coal purchases from its isolated neighbour slowed imports amid growing pressure from the United States to rein in Pyongyang's missile programme.

The world's second-largest economy imported and exported goods worth US$456.16 million in July, down from US$489 million in June, according to data from China's General Administration of Customs.

It was up from US$426.1 million in July last year, according to data on the customs website.

Year-to-date, trade was up 10.2 per cent at US$3.01 billion.

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The data indicates that China's move to halt North Korean coal imports in February has crimped Pyongyang's ability to raise hard currency through exports.

China's imports from North Korea were US$156.3 million, down 3 per cent from last month and a third lower than a year ago, based on data on customs website. For January-July, imports were US$1.04 billion, down 16.3 per cent.

Exports were US$299.85 million, down from US$326.85 million in June, but up from US$194 million in July last year. Year-to-date, they were up a third at US$1.97 billion.

On Aug 6, the United Nations Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea banning exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood, in a bid to choke off a third of Pyongyang's US$3 billion in annual export revenue.

The crackdown on major commodity exports was aimed as punishment for intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests in July and is due to take effect in early September.

Last week, Beijing issued an official ban on the imports effective from Aug. 15 as it moved to implement the sanctions.