China and North Korea opened a new border crossing over the Yalu River, signaling aspirations for deeper economic ties between the neighbors even as Pyongyang’s trade remains crimped by international sanctions.
The border checkpoint at the foot of a new bridge opened Monday, connecting the northeastern Chinese city of Jian with North Korea’s Manpo, Chinese state media reported. The China-DPRK Jian-Manpo highway connection is for passenger and cargo transport and hosts an advanced customs facility, the China News Service said.
An opening ceremony appeared to show that local Chinese officials were ready to step up trade and exchanges with North Korea in response to its call for economic development, according to Yonhap. China provides a lifeline to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his state has long been dependent on Beijing’s help to keep its meager economy afloat. It was unclear how the new border checkpoint — the fourth between China and North Korea — would operate under the sanctions, which ban or limit a broad range of goods from moving in or out of the country. The South Korean Unification Ministry declined to comment.
In 2017, China’s overall trade with North Korea declined by more than 10 percent to about $5 billion, as Trump secured Beijing’s backing for four escalating rounds of sanctions in response to North Korea nuclear weapons program testing. While official trade with China has slowed, North Korea has turned to other methods to evade sanctions, with a main source of activity being illegal high-seas cargo transfers with North Korean vessels, the U.S. and UN Security Council said in reports in March.