Report: China-North Korea bridge opening postponed indefinitely

Posted on : 2014-11-01 14:44 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
No construction has been observed in site around Shinuiju, a sign of deteriorating Pyongyang-Beijing relations

Chinese state media reported on Oct. 31 that the opening of the New Yalu River Bridge, which would link China and North Korea, has been postponed indefinitely.

“The New Yalu River Bridge had initially been scheduled to open on Oct. 30, but the opening has been delayed indefinitely,” China’s Global Times reported.

“A survey of the bridge location showed that the south side of the bridge - Shinuiju in North Korea - remained undeveloped, without any sign of roads or customs facilities. Even worse, North Korea has not even done any of the basic construction work,” the newspaper said.

The joke in Dandong, the city on the Chinese side of the river, is that the bridge, which cost 1.98 billion yuan (US$324 million), leads to North Korean vegetable gardens.

The Global Times also criticized the North Koreans for not making a serious effort to move forward with construction. “North Korea is completely absorbed in construction projects in Pyongyang and other major cities, without making any mention of the New Yalu River Bridge,” the paper said.

“Property values seem unlikely to increase for the time being,” said a Chinese individual named Liu, expressing his disappointment. Liu invested in real estate around Dandong.

Construction began on the New Yalu River Bridge on Dec. 31, 2010. The structure is intended to replace the Yalu River Bridge, which was built in 1937. The current Yalu River Bridge supports both railroad tracks and a road. However, the older bridge is limited in the amount of traffic it can handle, since it can only support trucks with a capacity of 20 tons and below.

Located 10km west of the old bridge, near the mouth of the river, the New Yalu River Bridge is 3,026m long and will carry four lanes of traffic moving in both directions.

“When the New Yalu River Bridge is completed, it will be able to handle 80% of the trade moving between North Korea and China, which will resolve a logistical logjam. It will also position Dandong to become the biggest base inside China for trade with North Korea,” the metropolitan government of Dandong has said.

“China paid the cost of building the New Yalu River Bridge, and North Korea said it would take care of the construction of the customs buildings and the roads on the Shinuiju side of the river. However, North Korea has yet to do this,” said a source in Beijing who recently visited Dandong.

“As things stand at present, vehicles and goods could not pass over the bridge even if it were opened up. China appears to have decided that, given this situation, there is no point in opening the bridge,” the source said.

Reportedly, North Korea hopes that China will cover the cost of building the customs facilities and the roads as well.

The indefinite postponement of the opening of the New Yalu River Bridge reflects the recent chill in North Korea-China relations. Since taking office, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Chinese president Xi Jinping have not met face to face a single time.

In addition, meetings between high-level officials have also been on hold since last year, with Choe Ryong-hae, Korean Workers’ Party Secretary, visiting China in May and Li Yuanchao, Vice President of China, traveling to North Korea in July.

There has also been virtually no progress at the Hwanggumpyong Economic Zone, located near the New Yalu River Bridge.

“In the present situation, both China and North Korea seem to think it is unlikely there would be active trade or exchange even if the bridge were linked,” one diplomatic source said.

By Seong Yeon-cheol, Beijing correspondent

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