China's exports to North Korea in March rose to a six-month high, with outbound shipments to its neighbour that month nearly 400 times more than January-February combined, in a sign of easing border restrictions imposed due to COVID-19.
China exported $12.978 million of goods to North Korea in March, up from $3,000 in February and $33,000 in the first two months, according to Chinese customs data released on Sunday, quoted by Reuters.
The shipments in March were the highest by value since $18.882 million in September last year.
China imported $1.308 million of North Korean goods in March compared with $1.75 million in February.
Early last year, North Korea banned almost all cross-border travel, and some countries including Britain, France and Germany withdrew their local representatives.
Meanwhile, Japan's exports in March grew 16.1 percent from a year earlier, the largest gain in over three years, as the pace of recovery from the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic picked up on brisk material shipments to China, government data showed Monday, as reported by Kyodo News.
Exports stood at 7.38 trillion yen ($68 billion), with its year-on-year expansion marking the biggest increase since a 16.2 percent jump in November 2017, the Finance Ministry said in a preliminary report. They declined 4.5 percent in February.
Rising from 6.36 trillion yen a year ago when the virus outbreak began to dampen global demand for cars and other Japan-made products, the latest monthly exports figure surpassed a pre-pandemic level of 7.20 trillion yen seen in March 2019 in terms of value.
"It's natural that the March exports rose remarkably from a year earlier because there was a huge impact from the pandemic, but when compared with two years ago, we can still see how robust they are to a certain degree," a ministry official told reporters.
By country, exports to China were up 37.2 percent to 1.63 trillion yen to hit the highest level since comparable data became available in January 1979, underpinned by strong demand for plastics and raw materials such as copper.
Exports to other Asian nations, including China, the United States and the European Union increased 22.4 percent, 4.9 percent and 12.8 percent, respectively. All were the sharpest rises in more than a year and a half.
Imports rose 5.7 percent to 6.71 trillion yen, up for the second straight month, which led to a goods trade surplus of 663.72 billion yen, the second consecutive month of black ink.
Kazuma Kishikawa, an economist at the Daiwa Institute of Research, said special factors also contributed to March's "remarkable" exports growth, such as China's weak factory activity last month during its annual weeklong Lunar New Year holiday and a cold wave in the United States that hit auto sales.