Members of the North Korean army supply medicines to residents at a pharmacy, amid growing fears over the spread of COVID-19, in Pyongyang, North Korea, May 18, 2022. (File photo: Reuters/Kyodo)

BEIJING - Reuters
North Korea abruptly stops importing COVID-19 containment goods from China

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 ventilators from its neighbour 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 (Jun 20).

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 to 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 per cent to US$14.51 million in May from US$98.1 million in April.

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

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

Chinese foreign ministry confirmed on Apr 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.

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