November 27, 2017 13:03
Closure of a bridge across the Yalu River on the China–North Korea border, ostensibly for maintenance, has been postponed until next month.
The real reason for the closure of the Sino-North Korean Friendship Bridge seems to be that China is miffed after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un snubbed a special envoy from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
But the closure date has apparently been postponed from last Friday to after Dec. 10.
The bridge connects the Chinese city of Dandong with Sinuiju in North Korea and handles some 70 percent of trade between the two allies. It contains a 940 m stretch of both railway and highway, and the northern end leads directly to Chinese customs.
Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun speculated the temporary closure is a form of "trade restriction" and a warning from Beijing over Kim's refusal to meet senior apparatchik Song Tao. The snub was swiftly followed by Air China suspending flights to Pyongyang.
The bridge is reportedly staying open while China works out how to stop exports from North Korea under the latest UN Security Council sanctions.
According to contracts signed between Chinese importers and North Korea prior to Sept. 11, when the sanctions were agreed, Beijing will need to allow shipments of North Korean textiles until Dec. 10.
"Local importers filed a complaint citing the contractual terms and the maintenance work was postponed," a local source said.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed the bridge will be closed "soon" but added it will be temporary and for maintenance purposes only.
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