Large trucks have started crossing the bridge again Yalu River, which links China to North Korea, in recent weeks, signaling the reopening of cross-border road trade that could help alleviate food and drug shortages plaguing Pyongyang. This was reported by the newspaper "Nikkei", according to which on a morning in mid-November at least six large vehicles crossed the Yalu River from Dandong, in the Chinese province of Liaoning, heading at low speed towards Sinuiju, on the North Korean side of the border. An estimated 70 percent of bilateral trade between China and North Korea passes through the Dandong-Sinuiju crossing, and activity on the bridge has served as an indicator of the level of cross-border trade since the coronavirus pandemic.
The South Korean public television broadcaster "KBS" had already reported in November that trucks had been spotted on the bridge for two consecutive days, but some observers had initially speculated that they were North Korean workers leaving China. However, a Chinese source told “Nikkei” that road freight shipments to North Korea have indeed resumed: “”It is still a low volume compared to the days when there were over 100 vehicles crossing (the bridge ) every day,” the source said, but confirmed that basic necessities, such as shampoo and some foods, are once again being exported across the border. In the past, Pyongyang has distributed special rations in honor of the birthdays of past and present leaders: February 16 for the late Kim Jong Il and April 15 for his predecessor Kim Il Sung. Trade volume “could increase ahead of those dates,” an analyst quoted by the Japanese newspaper said.
North Korea had banned cross-border flows of people and goods in January 2020 during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in China, in an attempt to avoid overloading its weak healthcare system. Nearly all truck, ship, and train traffic across the border had been halted by October of that year. Bilateral trade plunged 90 percent between 2019 and 2021 to $318 million, according to data provided by Chinese customs authorities. This has caused severe shortages of basic necessities in North Korea, including food. In response to the easing of the pandemic, Pyongyang first began to gradually allow maritime transport, followed by a resumption of freight rail service between Dandong and Sinuiju in September 2022. The trucks can be used to transport a variety of high-frequency items, including loads too small for freight trains. Refrigerated trucks can quickly and directly transport vegetables, fruit and other perishable products to their final destination. Truck shipments from China could help significantly alleviate food shortages in North Korea.