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China-N. Korea freight train operations may resume on daily basis

BEIJING = A freight train arrived at the North Korean town of Sinuiju from the Chinese border city of Dandong on Monday, a source close to the matter said, adding that traffic operations between the two countries are likely to resume on a daily basis.

 

The cargo train had made the journey from Sinuiju to Dandong on Sunday morning and was loaded with goods such as daily necessities including food before it returned to North Korea.

 

A second train reached Dandong Station from Sinuiju the same day as North Korea looks to reopen land traffic to and from China after it was stopped in early 2020 amid worries about coronavirus infections among its people.

 

China acknowledged later Monday that railway freight with North Korea has restarted, saying the two countries have talked about the kind of preventive measures that need to be taken against the virus.

 

The move will help promote the resumption of normal trade between China and North Korea, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters in Beijing.

 

North Korea, which claims no COVID-19 cases have been found in the country, has apparently only imported goods from China by ship since early 2021, despite the relatively high cost.

 

Foreign affairs experts say North Korea is hoping to resume land shipments in a bid to provide essential goods for its people as it has faced a serious food crisis as a result of the pandemic. The virus was first detected in China’s central city of Wuhan in late 2019.

 

China is North Korea’s closest and most influential ally in economic terms, accounting for more than 90 percent of its trade.

 

North Korea is seen to be vulnerable to infectious diseases against a backdrop of chronic shortages of food and medical equipment triggered by international economic sanctions designed to thwart its nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.

 

Previously, North Korea barred foreigners from crossing its borders during the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and the Ebola epidemic in West Africa in 2014.

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