A jump in first-quarter trade between China and North Korea was “unexpected” and masks a declining trend, a state-run Chinese newspaper said Friday, after U.S. President Donald Trump denounced China’s trade with its isolated neighbor.

Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 percent in the first quarter, Trump said via Twitter Wednesday, casting doubt on China’s assertion it is working to press North Korea to rein in its nuclear and missile programs.

37.4 percent blip

Data released in April by Beijing showed China’s trade with North Korea grew 37.4 percent in the first quarter over the corresponding 2016 period, the Global Times said, adding that subsequent data showed declining trade in April and May.

“First quarter data cannot speak for the whole year,” the paper said in an editorial that carried the headline “China-NK Q1 trade data must be read fairly.”

“The trade volume for 2017 is unlikely to grow significantly from last year,” it said.

Sanctions implemented

While the first-quarter rise was “somewhat unexpected,” the newspaper said China had been strictly implementing U.N. sanctions against North Korea, and that a ban on imports of its coal had taken a toll on two-way trade.

The newspaper said trade between China and North Korea had declined during the previous three years.

China has not imported North Korean coal since it banned imports of the fuel Feb. 18, the General Administration of Customs said in April.

The Global Times, published by the official People’s Daily, reiterated that sanctions should not affect normal trade activities with North Korea, especially those concerning people’s livelihoods.

“America’s public opinion mistakenly depicts U.N. sanctions on Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile activities as a total embargo,” it said, citing a four-fold increase in China’s grain exports to North Korea in the first quarter. “Beijing will never export materials to Pyongyang that could be used for nuclear and missile activities.”

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