UPDATE 9 (2014-1-14): Xinhua reports the bridge will open in 2014:
A new bridge over the river border between China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is expected to open this year, local authorities said on Tuesday.
About 80 percent of work on the Yalu River Bridge is complete, according to the Transport Department of northeast China’s Liaoning Province.
Construction began on the 3 km bridge at the end of 2010, and will cost 2.22 billion yuan (356 million U.S. dollars).
A joint project between the two countries, the bridge will have four two-way lanes upon completion, according to an agreement signed in February 2010. The new route is expected to boost communication and economic cooperation.
The only bridge connecting the nations was built in 1937. Trucks weighing more than 20 tonnes are not allowed on the one-way bridge, considerably restricting trade volume.
UPDATE 8 (2013-11-8): Yonhap releases a photo of the bridge nearing completion:
UPDATE 7 (2013-10-10): The Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES) offers some new information:
The construction of the New Yalu River Bridge, the new suspension bridge over the Yalu River, connecting China’s Dandong city (Liaoning Province) and North Korea’s Sinuiju city (North Pyongan Province) is in its final stages.
Currently, the volume of trade between Sinuiju and Dandong is heavy, and the Yalu River Railway Bridge is saddled with transporting goods. It is hoped that the new bridge will help ease that burden. Several hundred workers are involved in its construction.
According to one Dandong resident, “Despite North Korea’s nuclear test and China’s decision to impose sanctions against the North, construction of the New Yalu River Bridge has been relentless.” The new bridge is considered as an important symbol of Sino-DPRK economic cooperation. Its construction is believed to be well on track.
The total project cost of the construction is estimated to be 2.22 billion CYN (about 390 billion KRW or 3.6 million USD). China is covering the bridge’s construction costs and has reportedly introduced a variety of new technologies to improve the precision and safety of the structure. Once completed, the bridge will be 3 km in length, with the height of its two pylons at 197 meters and the distance between pylons to be about 636 meters.
Travel from Pyongyang to Dandong currently takes 4 hours; that time is expected to be cut in half as the new suspension bridge is located 8 km downstream from the existing railway bridge.
If the construction progresses smoothly, the bridge should open for operation by July 2014. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on August 23 that the new bridge should accommodate over 3,000 55-tonne freight cars per day, and 3,000-tonne ships will be able to pass under the bridge.
Along with the new bridge, China and North Korea are also engaged in joint development of a new district in Dandong and the Hwanggumpyong Special Economic Zone (SEZ). Despite the lingering concerns over the development of these areas after the death of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, the development has reportedly continued uninterrupted.
Despite the continued international and other sanctions against North Korea, the development of Hwanggumpyeong SEZ is speculated to pick up speed after the completion of the bridge. The Hwanggumpyeong SEZ is a project that North Korea put forth in response to the “May 24 Sanctions” imposed by the South Korean government after the sinking of ROKS Cheonan. These sanctions essentially had brought an end to all inter-Korean economic cooperation and exchanges (with the exception of the operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex).
Last September, a groundbreaking ceremony for the administrative building in the Hwanggumpyeong SEZ was held. Since then a customs building, security facilities, management office, street lights, and transport inspection office are reported to have been built or are currently under construction.
UPDATE 6 (2013-8-23): New KCTV footage of the bridge can be seen here:
UPDATE 5 (2013-6-4): I wrote an update on the construction of the bridge at NK News.
UPDATE 4 (2012-11-7): The China Daily’s English-language Dandong page reports on the status of the bridge:
Construction on the new bridge, with an investment of 2.22 billion yuan, began at the end of 2011. According to the Dandong government, the main structure of the bridge has been completed. It is expected to become operational in July 2014.
UPDATE 3 (2011-6-25): Adam Cathcart took some pictures of the new bridge construction–so it is progressing!
UPDATE 2 (2011-2-2): For some time I have been trying to track down the location of the proposed new Yalu River bridge which will connect the DPRK and China. Thanks to a story in the Daily NK, I was able to map it out on Google Earth:
Pictured above: Location of the proposed Yalu Bridge (Google Earth)
According to the Daily NK:
According to someone inside the construction company responsible for the bridge’s development, “The development of Xinchengqu has been on the drawing board for two years. This time, the construction of the New River Yalu Bridge was confirmed between China and North Korea. This is a very good chance for us, from now on Xinchengqu will become the center of China-North Korea trade.
According to Dandong’s urban development plan, the bridge will connect Busan-Seoul-Pyongyang-Dandong and Beijing in the future, implying that future trade and cooperation between a reunited Korea and China is being taken into account.
China is providing the construction costs for the New Yalu River Bridge; an estimated one billion Yuan (approximately $145 million).
This particular location is interesting because it completely bypasses the city and county of Sinuiju–where earlier reports (below) described its location. The bridge actually crosses from China into Sopuk-ri, Ryongchon County (서북리, 룡천군)—in the middle of nowhere. There is absolutely no infrastructure at this location for administering trade between the DPRK, China, and prospectively South Korea, so it will all need to be built from scratch or moved from Sinuiju. Either way, this is bad news for Sinuiju which today benefits financially as both the capital of North Pyongan Province and as the gateway for the majority of trade between the DPRK and China. It looks like Ryongchon may be taking some of their business!
In addition, the North Koreans have been widening the Sinuiju highway and “beautifying” all of the surrounding residential areas in anticipation of greater loads of traffic coming from China. See more about this here. This could all be for naught if the Chinese end up building a trade artery south of all this construction!
UPDATE 1 (2010-12-31): (KCNA h/t Aidan Foster-Carter) The ceremony did take place to mark the launch of the bridge’s construction:
Pyongyang, December 31 (KCNA) — A ground-breaking ceremony for a DPRK-China bridge across the River Amnok took place in Dandong City, China, on Friday.
Present there from the DPRK side were its government delegation headed by Kim Chang Ryong, minister of Land and Environmental Conservation, and from the Chinese side Li Shenglin, minister of Transport, Hu Zhengyue, assistant to Foreign Minister, and Chen Zhenggao, governor of the Liaoning Provincial People’s Government, and other officials concerned of the central and local governments of China.
Speeches were made by Kim Chang Ryong, Kim Song Gi, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, and Choe Jong Gon, chairman of the North Phyongan Provincial People’s Committee, from the DPRK side and Li Shenglin, Hu Zhengyue, and Chen Zhenggao from the Chinese side.
They said that two rounds of General Secretary Kim Jong Il’s visit to China this year marked historic events of epoch-making significance in developing the DPRK-China friendship on a fresh high stage.
They expressed belief that the bridge would make a contribution to demonstrating once again the great vitality and invincible might of the DPRK-China friendship steadily growing stronger.
The bridge will be successfully built as a symbol of the DPRK-China friendship and a structure of the two peoples, they added.
Then followed a ceremony of the ground-breaking for the project.
The Ministry of Transport, the Liaoning Provincial Committee of the Communist Party and the Liaoning Provincial People’s Government of China arranged a reception in connection with the ceremony.
Read older posts on the bridge below: