DANDONG, China – The trucks still rumble across the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, and a nearby pipeline still pumps crude oil to keep the regime alive in Pyongyang.
But here in the Chinese city of Dandong, at the center of this country’s trade with North Korea, pain and frustration are mounting.
Sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council to punish North Korea for its nuclear and missile tests and bring it to the negotiating table are starting to bite.
“Personally, the sanctions are hurting me a tremendous amount,” one Chinese trader said, explaining that almost 80 percent of the goods he used to send back and forth across the border – anything from textiles to chemicals — are now forbidden.
“Both Chinese and North Korean businessmen have the same thought — whatever happens, let it happen quickly,” he said, requesting anonymity to speak on a sensitive subject. “If we have to have war, at least let it happen soon. We have to settle this quickly, things can’t go on like this.”
Successive rounds of U.N. sanctions have cut off over 90 percent of North Korea’s publicly reported exports, including coal, iron ore, seafood and most recent textiles, and have restricted the regime’s ability to earn foreign currency income by sending workers abroad.
China accounts for roughly 85 percent of North Korea’s external trade, and is seen by many as the key to forcing Pyongyang to at least freeze its nuclear and missile defense program.
Along with Moscow, Beijing has balked at U.S. talk of a complete trade embargo, but foreign and Chinese experts said it has been implementing U.N. sanctions with unusual rigor, and applying real pressure on provincial and local government officials in the border region.
The trader, of ethnic Korean descent, said he had not seen a worse climate in nearly two decades trading across the border, nor had he seen the Chinese government so determined to impose its will — despite a lobbying effort from…