In official confirmation that closer China-North Korea business ties have come to fruition, the state-run Xinhua news agency and local media in Jilin on Monday said China has transported 20,000 tons of coal from a mine in Jilin to Shanghai and Ningbo through North Korea's Rajin-Sonbong Port since Dec. 7.
The coal produced in Hunchun was carried by some 570 35-ton trucks across the Duman (or Tumen) River and transported to the port along a 60 km unpaved road between Hunchun and Rajin-Sonbong.
A source in Hunchun said, "Since a month ago, dozens of trucks a day have been going to the North" through Quanhe Customs Office.
The abundant coal deposits in the northeastern China are mainly used for heating homes in southern China in winter, but with no access to the East Sea, China had to transport it overland to Yingkou Port in the Bohai Bay, some 800 km to the west, incurring logistical costs.
China has long tried to get the right to use Rajin-Sonbong and Chongjin ports in North Hamgyong Province in North Korea in a bid to secure an East Sea route.
In 2009, Chuangli Group, an environmental facilities manufacturer in Dalian, obtained the right to use a pier in the Rajin-Sonbong port for 10 years in collaboration with a North Korean trading company. Another Chinese firm in Tumen is also reportedly seeking the right to use Chongjin Port.
Prof. Yoon Seung-hyun of Yanbian University said Chongjin Port, has better facilities than Rajin-Sonbong. "The North is more open and aggressive" because it is groaning under international sanctions and aid from South Korea has dried up, he added.