Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)
North Korea has focused on developing Rajin Port, located in the North Hamgyong Province, with the aim of attracting foreign investments.
China and Russia have already secured usage rights to these ports and Mongolia has expressed itsinterest in this endeavor. This indicates a rising popularity and competition to use these ports.
Mongolian parliamentary speaker, Zandaakhuu Enkhbold,met with the DPRK’s Supreme People’s Assembly Chairman and Korean Workers’ Party Secretary Choe Tae Bok on October 19 on his four-day visit to Ulan Bator, the capitol of Mongolia. The officials from both countries agreed on the future possibilities of bilateral trade and cooperation in the fields of information technology and human exchanges. Mongolia is landlocked and expressed interests in cooperating for port leaseswhile Chairman Choe expressed enthusiasm in cooperation in harbor, coal, and mining industries.
The day after the two leaders met, Choson Sinbo, Pyongyang’s mouthpiece in Japan, directly reported on the results of the talk, exposing North Korea’s positive reaction to leasing ports to Mongolians. According to the newspaper, “Rajin Port is the most convenient sea route for Mongolia.”
Mongolia’s and North Korea’s bilateral cooperation on Rajin Port has been received positively as it fits the economic interests of these two countries. For Mongolia, they are interested in exporting coal and other underground resources overseas, as the country is rich in underground resources such as coal, copper, gold, and uranium. However, these resources arecostly to export since Mongolia has to rely on Chinese and Russian railway systems.
Once it is able to obtain lease rights to the Rajin Port, Mongolia should be able to significantly reduce itsshipping costs. Thus far, Mongolia has exported coal mainly to China, but may intend to diversify exports to other countries once it is able to use the port at Rajin.
Furthermore, once freight trains between Hassan in the Far East region of Russia and Rajin begin to operate, it will make it possible for Mongolia to transport coal directly to Rajin Port.
North Korea is most likely to lease Pier No. 2 and Sonbong Port to Mongolia, which are currently not being usedby China or Russia.
More importantly, North Korea is turning to South Korean participation in the development of future Rajin Port development. Choson Sinbo reportedin an article on October 21 (under the title, “Hwanggumpyong and Rason”)that “We (North Korea) sincerely want North and South to cooperate for mutual prosperity through communication and join forces to advance economic cooperation larger than neighboring countries.”
Once inter-Korean relations improve and South Korea joins China, Russia, and Mongolia in the development of Rajin Port, other economic cooperation between these five countries is likely.