SEOUL -- North Korea suffered a staggering trade deficit last year as exports fell 37.2 percent from a year ago, reflecting prolonged international sanctions that have deepened the isolation of the impoverished country and its economic woes, according to a South Korean trade body.
Data compiled by the state-funded Korea Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) showed the North's trade deficit in 2017 widened to $2.01 billion, up 125.5 percent from a year ago. Exports were down 37.2 percent on-year to $1.77 billion and imports rose 1.8 percent to $3.78 billion.
According to KOTRA, China remained North Korea's economic lifeline last year, accounting for 95 percent of its total trade volume with $5.26 billion, followed by Russia with $77.8 million and India with $55.1 million. Inter-Korean trade was excluded because of South Korea's trade embargo.
Mineral resources have been a key source of hard currency for the North, but China joined the international community to implement a U.N. resolution.
In return for its commitment to denuclearization at talks with U.S. and South Korean leaders this year, North Korea wants the international community to ease sanctions, but the United States and its allies were cautious, urging Pyongyang to show tangible steps.
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