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N Korea’s bridge to nowhere finally going somewhere


For three quarters of a century much of North Korea’s trade with the outside world took place across a Japanese-built single-lane bridge across the Yalu River, connecting its city of Sinuiju with Dandong in Northeast China. Traffic would go in one direction in the morning, the opposite direction in the afternoon.

To eliminate that bottleneck, Beijing financed and built a new four-lane bridge, completing it in 2014. Pyongyang was then supposed to build a road connecting the bridge to its highway network. It didn’t. The two countries had their differences.

But then last summer they attempted to reconcile and to put their economic relations back on track. According to the Seoul newspaper Dong A Ilbo, there were reports that Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to pay for the connecting road and other final touches.

And now – a bit ironically since it comes at a time when two-way trade has been drastically reduced on account of a January coronavirus-related border shutdown – the Kim Jong Un regime finally has gotten around to finishing a two-lane connection.

“North Korea began construction work on the road to the New Yalu River Bridge in mid-September last year, but had to put the project on hold in mid-January this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Seoul-based DailyNK.

Satellite photos from LandViewer, a satellite imagery service from the US-based company EOS, show that work began April 27 and that by May 5 paving of one side of the road was about half completed.

“If construction continues at this speed, it is expected that the lane in question will be fully paved within another week, and the second lane will be finished within the month,” predicted Daily NK, which specializes in North Korea news.

Completion of the road won’t necessarily mean that the bridge will open immediately. Although Pyongyang has signaled that it would like to resume more normal trading, Beijing reportedly is not ready yet.



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