September 23, 2015 10:37
China has built two high-speed railways along the border with North Korea.
Fast trains can now reach Dandong on the Apnok River near North Korea and Hunchun on the Duman River, the entrance to the North's Rajin-Sonbong Special Economic Zone.
The high-speed rail linking Shenyang with Dandong in Liaoning Province was finished late last month and the line between Changchun and Hunchun in Jilin Province was opened on Sunday.
The 207-km line between Shenyang and Dandong has shortened the travel time from three hours and 30 minutes to just an hour and 10 minutes. And the 360-km Changchun-Hunchun line passes through major cities in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. It is expected to appeal particularly to tourists because it passes by Mt. Baekdu.
It could also boost economic cooperation between China, North Korea and Russia. Hunchun lies at the vertex of the three countries, linking the North's Rajin-Songbong economic zone with Russia's Khasan.
China has long wanted an access route to the East Sea through the mouth of the Duman River. China's Jilin Province and North Korea in June ceremonially launched container liners linking Hunchun, Rajin-Sonbong and Shanghai.
A source in Beijing said China mostly transports coal on the route through Rajin-Sonbong Port, which connects with six Chinese ports.
In cooperation with the North and Russia, Jilin is building an international visa-free tourist zone in the Duman River delta.
Dandong, meanwhile, is the hub for more than 70 percent of North Korea-China trade. Pundits speculate that Beijing is trying to improve chilly relations with the North by reinvigorating economic cooperation.
Liaoning Province reportedly plans to open a duty-free zone in Dandong in October where North Koreans can buy Chinese goods worth up to 8,000 yuan (approximately W1.5 million) per visit.
Pyongyang-Beijing relations are in the doldrums, not least because the North's recent threats of long-range missile and nuclear tests. But China appears to be preparing for better times ahead with the high-speed rails. It has also completed a new bridge connecting Sinuiju and Dandong across the Apnok River.
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