North Korea and China are again suspending rail freight as Beijing’s zero Covid policy extends to cities on the China-Korea border, sources from both countries told RFA.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson announced at a press conference on April 29 that it will temporarily suspend all freight transport between Dandong in China and Sinuiju in North Korea due to the COVID-19 situation. in Dandong.
Dandong and Sinuiju lie on either side of the Yalu River which separates the two countries and are the main hubs of Sino-North Korean trade.
“The Dandong-Sinuiju freight train … will operate until the end of this month and will be suspended again from May 1,” a source from North Korea’s North Pyongan province told the Korean service last week. of FRG.
“Since COVID-19 spread in Dandong… the city government started to lock down the city from 25and and restricted movement of residents. Because Dandong is locked, our side is also suspending freight trains to prevent COVID-19,” said the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons.
The rail shutdown comes as tens of millions of residents of major Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai face rigid lockdowns and strict testing regimes as the country attempts to halt the spread of the variant omicron of COVID-19 under the zero-COVID of the Communist Party. Politics.
At the start of the pandemic in early 2020, Beijing and Pyongyang closed the border and suspended all trade, a disastrous decision for the North Korean economy.
Rail freight finally resumed on a limited basis nearly two years later in January 2022, only to be halted again after less than four months due to closures
A few days before the closing, traders prepared the last shipments, the source said.
“The freight station is now filled with fertilizers, pesticides and food purchased by North Korean trading companies as national emergency supplies. The last trains will be dispatched to a quarantine facility in Uiju tomorrow or after- tomorrow,” he said.
RFA reported last year that North Korea had completed a new rail line between Sinuiju and a quarantine facility in Uiju, in anticipation of reopening to trade before the pandemic subsides. The new facility can sterilize entire trains of goods before distribution to Pyongyang and the rest of the country.
A second source close to China-North Korea trade in Dandong confirmed that rail freight would stop in early May.
“North Korea urgently needs agricultural equipment and fertilizers, so the two sides have agreed to bring the supplies to Sinuiju by the end of this month,” he said. “People expect the freight train between Dandong and Sinuiju to resume only after the COVID-19 is gone and the citywide lockdown is lifted across China.”
The lockdown in Dandong prohibits the 2.2 million residents from leaving their homes and requires them to undergo daily tests.
Translated by Claire Lee and Leejin J. Chung. Written in English by Eugene Whong.