Although there is room for considerable skepticism about official Chinese data - and the numbers can swing wildly month to month - there is reason to believe there has been a recent slowdown in trade, experts say.
China's falling imports from the North may provide some salve to the Trump administration, as China's trade surplus with the USA ballooned further last month.
The politically volatile surplus with the United States was $28.1 billion.
He cited favorable factors for trade growth including mild recovery in the world economy, strong economic momentum inside China and good prospects for trade with other emerging markets.
The upbeat readings will be welcome new for Beijing ahead of a twice-a-decade Communist Party Congress next week, at which President Xi Jinping is expected to tighten his grip on power and set out the government's top political and economic priorities for the next five years.
Export growth was unexpectedly strong in the first half of the year, a positive sign for Chinese leaders who want to avoid job losses in trade-related industries as they try to nurture consumer-led economic growth.
Copper concentrate imports came in at 1.47 million tonnes in September, also the highest level since March.
Earthquake Detected Near North Korean Nuclear Test Site
These disturbances are more numerous and widespread than seen after any of the North's previous tests, 38 North has said. Other experts said the quakes might have been caused by landslides or the collapsing of test structures such as tunnels.
Iron ore imports rose to a record 103 million tonnes, from 88.7 million tonnes in August, according to Reuters calculations. "The (Chinese currency) actually appreciated a lot during September and that definitely impacted exports as well", she said.
China, North Korea's main trade partner, has gone along with a package of sanctions, including bans on imports of coal, iron and seafood from North Korea as well as limits on exports of refined petroleum products to the reclusive nation.
Imports in September expanded 18.7% from a year earlier, compared with a 13.3% gain in August.
Meanwhile, China exported 370,000 tonnes of unwrought aluminium and aluminium products in September, down 10 percent from 410,000 tonnes in August and 5 percent from 390,000 tonnes a year earlier.
Trump in August authorized an inquiry into China's alleged theft of intellectual property in the first direct trade measure by his administration against Beijing, but the move is not expected to prompt any near-term change.
Authorities are in the midst of a campaign to reduce the risks from a rapid build-up in debt produced by years of credit-fuelled stimulus, and the continued strength of imports and exports could give policymakers confidence to stick with their deleveraging push into next year.