June 23, 2017 / 9:34 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-China's May imports from North Korea 3rd lowest on record

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(Updating with detail throughout)

BEIJING, June 23 (Reuters) - China's imports of North Korean goods in May fell by more than 30 percent from a year ago, data showed on Friday, the latest sign that China's ban on coal purchases from the isolated country continues to curb trade between the two neighbours.

The world's second-largest economy bought goods worth $123.8 million in May from North Korea, down 31 percent from a year ago and third lowest on records going back to June 2014, according to data from China's General Administration of Customs.

The total was up from $99.3 million in April, the lowest on record. The second weakest total was registered in March.

The data indicates that China's halt of North Korean coal imports on Feb. 26 has crimped Pyongyang's ability to raise hard currency through exports.

China's iron ore imports from North Korea in May, at 233,508 tonnes and worth $13.4 million accounted for 11 percent of the total for the month.

Chinese exports to North Korea in May rose to $319.8 million, up 11 percent from April and a third higher than in the same month last year.

The data came a day after the United States pressed China again to exert more economic and diplomatic pressure on North Korea to help rein in its nuclear and missile programs during a round of high-level talks in Washington.

On Friday, a U.S. official told Reuters that North Korea had carried out another test of a rocket engine believed to be part of its programme to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile. (Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Tom Hogue)

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