Executive Intelligence Review


North Korea Could Develop a Major Land-Bridge/Arctic Route Link

May 14, 2018 (EIRNS)—If President Donald Trump’s summitry with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un succeeds, South Korea and China are both prepared to take on infrastructure development linking Korea to the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as action to reduce poverty in the D.P.R.K.; U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promises that U.S. energy and agricultural corporations will take part. One development that can be of great benefit to the progress of the Eurasian Land-Bridge and Maritime Silk Road, will be the redevelopment of the port of Rason (actually twin ports Rajin and Sonbong) in North Korea’s extreme northeast corner, on the Sea of Japan.

Rason was developed as a deep-water container port—deep enough not to freeze over—with Chinese investments, but has no land-side infrastructure and almost no traffic now. It is on the Korean east-coast side of the “H”-shaped combination of rail/development corridors proposed to Kim Jong-un by South Korea’s Moon Jae-in. When provided with road and rail links, it will become an important port for Russian and Chinese trade as well as Korean. Moreover, it will be among most northerly ports in the Sea of Japan that communicates directly, and quickly, to the Northern Route or “Arctic Silk Road” for shipping.

Writing in Forbes on May 2, Australian academic Salvatore Babones compares Rason’s potential future to that of the Chinese “science city” Shenzhen in 1979 when it was built as the first special economic zone in China. He says its potential as an engine of productivity for North Korea’s economy is much greater than that of Kaesong near the 38th Parallel, where South Korean companies have invested in ventures in the past. Babones also writes that the Dongbei region in China, across the Tumen River border from Rason’s region, is economically depressed, by Chinese standards; Rason’s twin-port city could link it immediately to Japan, to Europe (by the Northern Route), and to the United States. The port will center both transport infrastructure in the northern and eastern D.P.R.K., and export processing industries.