China's trade with North Korea edges up in November

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China’s trade with North Korea edged up to $388 million in November but remained around its lowest levels this year, data showed on Saturday, as tough sanctions continue to slow business with its isolated neighbor.

FILE PHOTO: 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/File Photo

The total is up 15.9 percent from October’s $334.89 million but far lower than $613.2 million a year ago, according to data released by China’s General Administration of Customs.

While the data shows a monthly pickup, China’s trade with North Korea has been slowing since the latest United Nations penalties came into force on Sept. 5, banning Pyongyang from selling coal, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood abroad.

The world’s second-largest economy bought goods worth $100.18 million from North Korea in the last month, up from $90.75 million in October but lower compared to $262.2 million a year ago, data shows.

October was the lowest on Chinese government records going back to January 2014.

Exports totaled $287.84 million in November up from $244.2 million in October.

Trade between the two countries has slowed this year, particularly after China banned coal purchases in February. But the pace of the drop has quickened as the most recent curbs hurt Pyongyang’s ability to sell some critical commodities to one of its chief trading partners.

The U.N. estimated the latest ban, imposed after its two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July, would slash North Korea’s $3-billion annual export revenue by a third.

On Friday, the U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea for its Nov. 29 intercontinental ballistic missile test aimed at limiting its access to refined petroleum products and crude oil as well as its earnings from workers abroad.

A more detailed breakdown of trade by commodity will be released on Monday.

(This version of the story corrects percentage change from October and October figure in second paragraph)

Reporting by Josephine Mason and Brenda Goh; Editing by Sam Holmes