China is building a massive highway and rail network in Liaoning and Jilin provinces near the border with North Korea. Beijing is expected to spend more than US$10 billion on the project by 2015.
Experts believe the aim is not only to tap into North Korea's mineral resources but to secure easy access for Chinese troops in case of an emergency in the North.
According to Jilin Province officials, a 41.68 km railway is to link the city of Helong with the border town of Nanping, which is just a stone's throw from North Korea's Musan, where the North's largest iron ore deposits are. The railway will apparently be used to carry iron ore from Musan to the steel town of Anshan in Liaoning Province.
The Changbai region in Jilin, on the western side of Mt. Baekdu and just across the border from North Korea's Hyesan, is rapidly becoming a regional traffic hub. A 100.58 km highway and 126.4 km railway linking Songjianghe with Changbai will be completed in 2015. Hyesan is home to North Korea's biggest copper mine.
Another highway is also being built connecting Shenyang, Liaoning Province, home of the regional government office that has jurisdiction over the border area, with the border town of Ji'an in Jilin Province.
"A four-lane highway is being built into the remote region and many people think it is for military purposes," said one source in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin.