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China paves road to North Korean port zone

27 april 2011, 13:23
Free trade zone in North Korea. Photo courtesy of www.wantchinatimes.com
Free trade zone in North Korea. Photo courtesy of www.wantchinatimes.com
China has begun paving a road connecting its northeastern region with a North Korean free trade zone in an attempt to gain access to the Sea of Japan (East Sea), AFP reports.

It hopes to complete work on the 53 kilometre (32 mile) road between Hunchun and the Rason zone by the end of this year, Dong-A Ilbo newspaper said, adding the project would be financed by Beijing.

The paper quoted sources in China as saying Beijing and Pyongyang would soon unveil a joint plan to develop Rason.

The impoverished North is striving to revitalise Rason near its border with China and Russia. It became a special economic zone in 1991 but never took off.

In January 2010 Pyongyang issued a decree to upgrade the status of the zone, formerly known as Rajin-Sonbong.

In January this year a South Korean newspaper reported that China plans to invest about $2 billion to try to build up Rason as a regional export base.

The project calls for the construction of coal-fired power plants, roads, piers and an oil refinery, JoongAng newspaper said.

China, Pyongyang's sole major ally and biggest trade partner, has actively explored investment opportunities in North Korea.

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