As Sanctions Bite, China Trade With North Korea Plummets

South Korean soldiers stand guard at a check point on the Grand Unification Bridge that leads to the truce village of Panmunjom just south of the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreans in Paju

Russia and China are set to strengthen cooperation to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday after a meeting of Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou.

China reported a substantial decrease in trade with North Korea on Friday, highlighting the impact of sanctions on the rogue state.

"The meeting will bring together nations from across the globe to demonstrate worldwide solidarity against 's unsafe and illegal nuclear and ballistic missile programs", the department said in a statement Thursday. However, China's exports to North Korea a year ago rose by eight-percent, totaling three.three billion dollars, the highest value since 2014. While China says they support a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, Beijing has resisted sanctions so harsh that they might cause widespread suffering or topple Kim's regime.

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The move was initiated due to Pyongyang's refusal to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile tests, thus violating the UNSC resolutions. South Korea recenly seized two product tankers on charges of making illicit high-seas fuel transfers to North Korean ships, but these arrests occurred in port, not in global waters.

The gathering comes as tensions have sharply escalated over North Korea's provocations, which past year included its sixth nuclear test and three tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The UN Security Council has steadily tightened prohibitions on buying the North's goods or supplying it with oil in an effort to discourage leader Kim Jong Un's government from pursuing nuclear and missile technology. According to a Russian expert, who visited Pyongyang recently and spoken to senior North Korean figures, the overall mood at the Kim Jong-un regime suggests there is no doubt on whether a full-fledged conflict will break out. "I think you people are surprised".

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