October 07, 2009 11:17
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao brought with him a huge bag of gifts for North Korea. The portion that has been made public alone exceeds US$200 million, including free economic assistance, pledges of support in the fields of education and technology, tourism deals and the construction of a new bridge over the Apnok or Yalu River with Chinese money.
Experts in China say that Beijing will provide at least $50 million worth of much-needed crude oil and food aid alone to the North given that the premier's visit is aimed at restoring brotherly relations between the two communist countries and getting the North back to the six-party talks. During the 2003 visit to North Korea by Wu Bangguo, then chairman of the Standing Committee of the Chinese National People's Congress, with a less serious matter -- persuading the North to agree to the second round of the six-party talks -- Beijing promised economic aid worth some $50 million.
The new bridge, which will cost China around $150 million to construct, could restart efforts to build a special economic zone in Sinuiju. China proposed the construction of the new bridge to better handle the $2.7 billion in annual bilateral trade, but North Korea resisted that plan in the apparent fear that the bridge could be used by Chinese troops to enter the country in an emergency. It apparently changed its mind because the bridge, which would cross Bidan Island in the Yaku River, would be a key component in Pyongyang's plans for a free economic zone there, which it has eyed since 2006.
North Korea also gained opportunities to expand tourism revenues by signing pacts in that area with China.
China also pledged military assistance. Since 2000, North Korea has asked China to provide a security relationship that mirrors the South Korea-U.S. alliance. During his visit, Wen paid a visit to a monument around 100 km east of Pyongyang that honors Chinese soldiers who died in the Korean War. Wen used the opportunity to voice Beijing's willingness to offer military assistance in times of crisis, reminding Pyongyang that 2.4 million Chinese troops fought for the North in the Korean War.
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