North Korea-China border trade could further tighten with new sanctions

The single-lane bridge, the “Friendship Bridge”, in the Chinese border city of Dandong is the main gateway for international trade into isolated and heavily sanctioned North Korea and it has grown unusually quiet of late, traders and businessmen in the city of 2.5 million people say.

Lu Chao, Director of the Border Study Institute at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, a Chinese government think-tank, said: “China has been cutting back the number of workers from North Korea it allows in by tightening checks on potential visiting workers and making the paperwork more difficult.”

“There’s still a flow of workers coming into China. But if there’s a new round of tougher sanctions, no doubt we’ll see a further drop in the number of workers coming from North Korea to China,” Lu said.

Estimates of North Korea’s overseas workers vary greatly but a study by South Korea’s state-run Korea Institute for National Unification put the number as high as 150,000, primarily in China and Russia. They send back most of their wages – as much as US$900 million annually – through official North Korean channels.

Beijing is now close to approving new sanctions with the four other veto powers of the U.N. Security Council to further cut North Korea’s coal exports. When it comes to squeezing North Korea, the Friendship Bridge is where the rubber hits the road. Around 80 percent of trade between China and North Korea flows across it.

[Channel News Asia]

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