China keeps fuel exports to North Korea low in March as sanctions bite

Trucks move across the bridge linking North Korea with the Chinese border city of Dandong in this March 3, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Megha Rajagopalan

BEIJING (Reuters) - China kept fuel exports to North Korea to a trickle in March and exported no corn for a third straight month to its isolated neighbor, data showed on Tuesday, as sanctions over Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile program continued to bite.

Official data from the General Administration of Customs showed a sixth straight month of no shipments of diesel, gasoline and fuel oil. China has traditionally been the main source of North Korea’s fuel.

The only oil products sent to North Korea was 3 tonnes of jet fuel and 55 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

It was also the sixth month that China imported no iron ore, coal or lead from North Korea, in line with United Nations sanctions aimed at persuading Pyongyang to abandon its weapons program.

It was the third month in a row that there were no corn exports from China to North Korea. Shipments of rice were just 457 tonnes.

The export breakdown follows data on Monday that showed the value of China’s trade with North Korea was $155.3 million in March, down from $442 million last year and up from February’s $112 million.

China remains North Korea’s largest trading partner and sole major ally, though overall trade has fallen in recent months as the UN stepped up sanctions, banning imports of some major commodities and seafood in September and capping annual oil product shipments in December.

Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Christian Schmollinger