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A labor agent sat in his bus on a recent frigid morning, waiting to cross the “Friendship Bridge” at China’s main border post with North Korea. He had come to pick up migrant workers and take them to jobs in factories and restaurants in China.

The single-lane bridge in the border city of Dandong is the main gateway for international trade into isolated and heavily sanctioned North Korea and it has grown unusually quiet of late, traders and businessmen in the city of 2.5 million people say.

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