A Chinese government official said Thursday that China-North Korea trade was worth $2.6 billion in the first half of 2017, up about 10% over the same period past year.
Beijing's statistics reveal that although imports from North Korea have fallen, exports in the first half of the year increased by nearly a third compared to 2016.
Huang Songping, spokesman of General Administration of Customs, said on Thursday at a Beijing news conference that China's total imports from the DPRK amounted to US$880 million in the first six months of this year, a year-on-year drop of 13.2 percent. They had risen by 18% in the quarter ended March.
More than 5,000 Chinese companies regularly work with the North Korea every year, and China accounts for nearly 85 percent of North Korea's trade, Newsweek reported Thursday.
China announced in February the suspension of coal imports from the North, striking a blow at a major source of income for the hermit state. Despite that track record, the Trump White House displayed an initial optimism, presenting North Korea as an easily solvable problem with the help of Chinese President Xi Jinping, with whom Trump had a friendly summit back in April.
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The 68-year-old had come under fire for driving under the influence of alcohol in 1991 and for playing golf in his post-retirement years on anniversaries of such national tragedies as the sinking of the Cheonan warship and North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.
But Beijing is also eager to avoid riling Trump.
Whether the new penalties are put in place will depend on how a high-level economic meeting between US and Chinese officials in Washington next week goes and on how China responds to USA pressure on Pyongyang, according to Reuters.
"The new figures that the customs bureau have put out today suggest [they] have made an effort, at least on paper", he added.