China, North Korea halt border rail crossing over COVID fears

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Freight cars are seen at a train station in Dandong, Liaoning province, China April 21, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

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BEIJING/SEOUL, April 29 (Reuters) - China has suspended cross-border freight train services with North Korea following consultations after COVID-19 infections in its border city of Dandong, the foreign ministry said on Friday.

The suspension came within four months after North Korea eased border lockdowns enforced early in 2020 against the coronavirus, measures global aid groups have blamed for its worsening economic woes and risks to food supplies for millions.

"Due to the COVID situation in Dandong, after friendly consultation between both sides, China has decided to suspend freight services from Dandong to Sinuiju," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing in Beijing.

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South Korea's Yonhap news agency said authorities in Dandong had acted on a request from North Korea, citing unidentified sources.

Authorities in Seoul, the capital of neighbouring South Korea, said they were keeping watch on the situation.

The Chinese city of Dandong has been fighting a COVID-19 outbreak since late April, reporting 220 infections from April 24 to April 27.

By Wednesday, authorities had locked down 77 residential compounds, while people elsewhere were asked to keep to designated areas.

North Korea has not officially reported any COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began, but adopted border curbs among its anti-virus measures.

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Reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing and Soo-hyang Choi in Seoul; Additional reporting by Albee Zhang; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Clarence Fernandez

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