BEIJING (AP) — China's trade with its close ally North Korea nearly doubled in the first seven months of the year compared with the same period in 2010, state media reported Sunday.
The 87 percent increase to $3.1 billion was announced at the start of a visit to the North by Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang that reaffirms strong ties between the communist neighbors.
Li said China was hoping for better relations between North and South Korea and a resumption of long-stalled six-nation nuclear disarmament talks.
China wants to work with all parties in promoting the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and safeguarding regional peace and development, the official Xinhua News Agency quoted Li's statement as saying.
North Korea relies heavily on China for food and fuel aid and many consumer products. Chinese companies are the main investors in North Korean mining, and the sides recently signed agreements on road building and jointly developing an industrial park on an island near the Chinese city of Dandong.
"The economic and trade cooperation between the two countries has shown great potential, with bilateral trade and investment volume reaching new highs," Xinhua said, citing the Chinese ambassador to Pyongyang, Liu Hongcai.
Bilateral trade between China and North Korea still is dwarfed by economic ties between China and South Korea. China is South Korea's largest trade partner.
Trade between Beijing and Seoul rose more than 20 percent in the first eight months of the year to $159 billion and is expected to hit about $250 billion for all of 2011.