China's December trade with North Korea falls 50 percent

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Imports from the North shrank 81.6 percent to $54 million in December while exports to the isolated, impoverished country contracted 23.4 percent to $260 million, said a spokesman for the Chinese customs agency, Huang Songping.

Washington and Pyongyang are in a standoff over North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, which could be used to target the United States and her allies.

Japan has also reportedly criticized the meeting. However, China's exports to North Korea previous year rose by eight-percent, totaling three.three billion dollars, the highest value since 2014.

China and Russia-despite not being invited to a conference in Canada on the North Korea crisis-must help defuse tensions on the Korean peninsula, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday (Saturday in Manila). The U.S. sees cutting off North Korea's economic ties with China - the country's dominant trading partner - as essential to forcing Kim back to the negotiating table.

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Tensions sharply escalated past year as Pyongyang tested its sixth nuclear weapon and three intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the mainland U.S.

Amid the unprecedented escalation of the tensions on the Korean Peninsula since summer, Russian Federation and China proposed the so-called double freeze plan: with North Korea, on one hand, halting its nuclear and missile programs, while its neighbors, on the other hand, would refrain from holding joint drills with the United States in the region. 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.

Behind the scenes, organizers insist recent developments - like North Korea's decision to send athletes to the Olympics, or initiate military talks with South Korea - won't alter the agenda of next week's discussions.

Vice President Mike Pence will lead the official United States delegation.

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