China August trade with North Korea up after U.N. sanctions

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s trade with North Korea rose in August to its highest since December 2016, data showed on Saturday, even after the United Nations slapped tougher sanctions on Pyongyang in a bid to choke off a third of its $3 billion in annual export revenue.

The world’s second-largest economy imported and exported goods worth $604.27 million in August, up from $456.16 million in July, according to data from China’s General Administration of Customs.

While the highest number this year, August trade was down from $628.2 million in August last year, according to data on the customs website.

Trade was up 7.5 percent at $3.61 billion for the year to date.

China’s move to halt North Korean coal imports in February and its decision to stop selling fuel have crimped Pyongyang’s ability to raise hard currency through exports.

The data comes after the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted on Aug. 6 to impose a ban on exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood as punishment for intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July.

The sanctions were due to take effect in early September, but Beijing issued an official order implementing the new rules from Aug. 16.

Tensions between the United States and North Korea have ratcheted up after Pyongyang conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test Sept. 3, prompting the United Nations to impose even tougher sanctions last week.

Earlier on Saturday, China said it will limit exports of refined petroleum products from Oct. 1 and ban exports of condensates and liquefied natural gas immediately to comply with the latest U.N. sanctions. It will also ban imports of textiles from North Korea.

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump ordered new sanctions that open the door wider to blacklisting people and entities doing business with the isolated nation, including its shipping and trade networks, further tightening the screws on Pyongyang’s missile program.

In August, China’s imports from North Korea were $288.3 million, up 84.4 percent from July and down 1 percent from a year ago, based on data on the customs website.

Exports were $315.97 million, up 5.4 percent from July but down 6.2 percent from a year earlier $336.9 million a year earlier.

Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Paul Tait