China held a $275.9-billion trade surplus with the US last year, up roughly 10% from 2016.
SIA Energy's Tee said the 770,000 bpd increases in last year's imports exceeded his forecasts, suggesting China's domestic fuel demand may be stronger than official data showed. But historically, Beijing has responded to new U.S. tariffs with tit-for-tat measures and it is unclear how long its leaders will restrain themselves.
Imports from North Korea slumped 81.6 percent year-on-year to $54.34 million, Huang Songping, Chinese customs spokesman, said in a briefing in Beijing on Friday.
Foreign trade has become one of China's most dynamic and fastest-growing sectors, placing the country among the world's leading traders during the past decade.
It will be hard to keep double-digit trade growth this year given the many global uncertainties and a high comparison base, Huang said. The rate is also a steep fall from November's 17.7 percent.
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China's exports and imports both contracted for two consecutive years before 2017. The president has connected the two issues a number of times.
"We have...long expected China's domestic demand and imports to slow in 2018 on gradually tighter monetary and financial policies and slower real estate activity momentum", Louis Kuijs, an economist with research firm Oxford Economics, said in a note.
In 2016, China accounted for roughly 90 percent of the North's trade, with the secretive country's coal and iron exports bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars for the regime.
Fuel imports previous year rose 6.4% to 29.64 million tonnes.
December gas imports, including pipeline imports and tanker shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG), came in at 7.89 million tonnes, 20% above November's previous record of 6.55 million tonnes, data from the General Administration of Customs showed.