North Korea abruptly stops importing COVID containment goods from China

BEIJING (Reuters) – North Korea abruptly stopped importing COVID-19 prevention and control products from China in May, trade data released by Beijing showed, after the country bought face masks and fans from its neighbor in previous months.

Daily new cases of fever in North Korea, as reported by its state news agency, KCNA, have been declining since the reclusive country first acknowledged in mid-May that it was fighting a COVID-19 outbreak. But it has yet to reveal how many of those cases tested positive for the coronavirus.

North Korea did not import any face masks, thermometers, rubber gloves, ventilators or vaccines from China in May, according to data released by Chinese customs on Monday.

That compared with imports of more than 10.6 million masks, nearly 95,000 thermometers and 1,000 non-invasive ventilators from China in January-April.

South Korea and the United States have offered to provide help, including vaccines, but Pyongyang has not responded.

As Pyongyang has never directly confirmed how many people have tested positive for the virus, the World Health Organization said in June that it assumed the situation was getting worse, not better.

Overall, China’s exports to North Korea slumped 85.2% to $ 14.51 million in May from $ 98.1 million in April.

The top export items were soybeans, granulated sugar, soybean meal and wheat flour.

North Korea bought $ 2.97 million worth of soybeans, $ 2.64 million of granulated sugar, $ 1.49 million of soybean meal and $ 846,598 of wheat flour in May, the Chinese customs data showed.

Chinese foreign ministry confirmed on April 29 that China had suspended cross-border freight train services with North Korea following consultations due to COVID-19 infections in its border city of Dandong.

(Reporting by Ellen Zhang and Ryan Woo. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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