Russia and China seek use of port in North

Joong Ang Daily
Lee Yang-soo and Brian Lee

With an eye on future transportation infrastructure, both Russia and China are courting North Korea to get in on the development of Najin port, in the far north of the country near the Russian border.

A Foreign Ministry official said yesterday that Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin is scheduled to visit North Korea to discuss launching a project aimed at improving and repairing a railroad from Najin to Khasan, just across the border into Russia.

Yakunin told former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, who visited Russia last month, that President Vladimir Putin had great interest in the project and Russia was hoping for the active participation of South Korean companies, the official said. The railway official visited Seoul in July last year to discuss the project with South Korean companies. The issue was also discussed in March at a bilateral meeting with Russia on economic cooperation.

A government official said that Russia wants to use Najin port as a logistics hub, but is also intending to develop the port into a base for future development of oil and natural gas in Siberia. The ultimate goal would be to connect the trans-Siberian railway with an inter-Korean railway system.

Beijing also has its eye on the North Korean port, which it envisions as part of its grand design to build a transport network that stretches from the Indian Ocean to the North Pacific.

“Najin Port is near the Jilin area and China’s own ports in the area have already reached their full capacity,” a government official said yesterday.

Beijing has recently notified Pyongyang that it is willing to spend $1 billion to develop port facilities, build railroads connecting the port to China and improve existing infrastructure such as highways, the official said.

In a report published earlier this year, Cho Myung-chul, a researcher at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy, predicted that China would use investments in the North’s ports and railroads to extend its own infrastructure for export and import purposes. China has made similar investments in Burma and Bangladesh, among others.


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