NK train enters China for first time since pandemic

A North Korean freight train entered China on Monday, following another train’s journey north in the first such crossing since the border was closed due to the pandemic in early 2020, this which suggests that the two countries could be gearing up to fully resume land trade soon.

The second empty train crossed the Yalu River Railway Bridge and entered the Chinese border city of Dandong earlier in the day, according to Yonhap news agency. Shortly before arrival, the first train, which arrived in Dandong on Sunday, returned home to North Sinuiju around 7 a.m.

It was still unclear whether the first train was empty when it arrived in China, but its return journey was likely loaded with daily necessities, medical supplies and other emergency relief items, sources said.

The latest North Korean train crossings to China marked the first time in nearly two years that the reclusive regime has officially opened its land border with its neighbor, having imposed a strict border lockdown since the start of the pandemic in the beginning of 2020.

Pyongyang, which claims to have no cases of COVID-19, was one of the first countries to cut ground traffic to and from China and strictly limited the movement of people and goods, dealing a blow to an economy already weakened by the fallout. international sanctions.

Since last year, there have been signs that the North is pushing to resume trade with China, which accounts for more than 90% of the country’s trade. Pyongyang has passed a new law that requires all imported goods to be disinfected and has also built a disinfection facility for imported goods in its border city of Sinuiju.

Sources say the North is likely to continue shipping emergency supplies from China via rail lines, but it’s too early to say whether the two countries will fully resume trade, which has been suspended since the start of the pandemic.

The South Korean government said it was closely monitoring signs of its border reopening from the North.

“With the latest rail operation, we need to further monitor whether the rail operation between the North and China will continue, and whether it will lead to the North easing the border lockdown and resuming trade and commerce. between peoples,” Lee Jong-joo, spokesman for the Unification Ministry, said at a regular press briefing on Monday. “The government will closely monitor related situations, including the frequency of the North Korea-China train operation, the operation volume and the quarantine stages, and then make a comprehensive decision on what kind of effect the Rail operation will have on the North’s quarantine measures, North China trade and inter-Korean relations.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)

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