An official Chinese magazine has dismissed North Korea's plan to lure Chinese investors and develop Wihwa and Hwanggumpyong islands at the mouth of the Apnok River as "wishful thinking."
China is apparently not keen on the project, which North Korean leader Kim Jong-il wants Beijing to invest in. This is the first time the position was made public in a magazine published under the auspices of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
The World's Knowledge biweekly published by World Knowledge Publishing House under the Foreign Ministry supervision dismissed the North Korean plan to build what it called "its own Hong Kong." In its latest edition, Tang Longwen, an associate professor at the Dandong party school, said, "The North's plan to develop the two islands by leasing them to Chinese enterprises costs too much."
Chinese businesses "need to check if it is worth making huge investment in areas that neither have abundant resources nor are worth developing," Tang wrote.
Tang also mentioned risks from the lack of proper governance in North Korea. Citing the joint Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex as an example, he said, "What is important is not the development of the two islands but whether the North genuinely intends to open its doors. Everybody worries that the North will just open and close the islands as it likes."
He cited the North's habitual disregard for international norms, apparently referring to its unilateral abrogation of its contract with Hyundai Asan in the Mt. Kumgang package tour project and repeated bans on passage to the Kaesong industrial park.
"The North is calling for simultaneous development of the Rajin-Sonbong area and Hwanggumpyong, but China is more interested in the Rajin-Sonbong area, which would give it access" to the East Sea, he said. As Chinese President Hu Jintao said during Kim's visit to China in May, "the two countries should seek 'win-win' economic cooperation. It should not be sought through one-sided aid."
On three visits to China between May last year to May this year, Kim asked China to support the development of Wihwa and Hwanggumpyong islands, but Beijing told him cooperation "should be sought based on market principles."
Chinese officials attended a ground-breaking ceremony on Hwanggumpyong at the North's request in June, but there has reportedly been no progress in construction since then.