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Friday, May 20, 2011

North Korea and China's Latest Efforts on Increased Economic Ties

South Korea's Chosun Ilbo reported on Friday, 20 May 2011 (KST), North Korea and China are poised to start development work on two joint projects in the border areas. A construction project of developing an island called Hwanggumpyong, located a little less than 10 miles east of Dandong, China, on the Yalu River, will start on May 28, and construction of roads connecting Hunchun in China and Rajin-Sonbong in North Korea on May 30. High-ranking officials from both countries will visit Dandong and Rajin-Sonbong to launch the projects. According to a North Korean source, Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming and Jang Song-taek, the brother-in-law of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and vice chairman of the National Defense Commission, are likely to attend both events. There is even speculation that Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, widely tipped as the next president, and Vice Premier Wang Qishan will also attend.

I've posted a background paper on the Tuman Area Economic Development Project on this blog in January of 2010, and you can read the full paper here.

Here are also some of the latest news articles on this subject:
N.Korea, China to Launch Joint Economic Projects
N.Korea to Develop Special Economic Zone on Chinese Border
Chinese Businesses Pour into N.Korea's Rajin-Songbong
N.Korea's Cross-Border Business with China Picking Up

On a separate but related news, apparently, according to an Interfax News Agency report, a delegation of Russian officials has agreed to send 50,000 tons of grain to North Korea following wide-ranging discussion on relations between the two countries (I have not been able to locate the actual Interfax report.  The Chosun Ilbo is the source of my information here). The Russian delegation, led by Mikhail Fradkov, the director of Russia's intelligence agency, the Foreign Intelligence Service, apparently held a meeting with Kim Jong-il recently during which they discussed not only aid, but also economic projects and North Korea's nuclear weapons. Apparently, the report cites a Russian diplomatic source as saying that the conversation dealt with economic development in the far north of North Korea, notable a train connection (which has been discussed in the past as a part of the Tuman Area Economic Development Project) and the issue of a long-mooted gas pipeline connecting Russia with South Korea.

China gives its "Thumbs Up" to Kim Jong-un?

According to the South Korean Yonhap News Agency, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's heir apparent son, Kim Jong-un, has been confirmed to be visiting China. The junior Kim arrived in Tumen, in the northeastern Chinese province of Jilin, early in the morning of Friday, 20 May (KST),  but his next destination has yet to be confirmed, the source in Tumen told Yonhap News Agency. The source asked not to be identified, citing the issue's sensitivity. Security has been tightened considerably in Tumen and areas linking the Chinese city with North Korean border, the source added. A ranking government official in Seoul said that the North's presumed heir may have certainly arrived in China considering circumstances observed so far, noting he is unlikely to travel to Beijing."We believe that Kim Jong-un arrived in China early this morning, though it will take more time to confirm the visit," said the Seoul official. "It remains to be seen whether he was traveling alone or together with Kim Jong-il. But it is believed thus far that he was visiting China alone. His final destination doesn't appear to be Beijing."

This would mark the first confirmed trip to China by Kim Jong-un since he has been named the Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission and a four-star general in September 2010.  Apparently, this visit has been widely seen as China showing its seal of approval for Kim Jong-un as the next possible leader of North Korea.