China plans to spend $3 billion to build a three-pier terminal in a special economic zone bordering North Korea and a 34-mile cross-border railroad linking the port to the Chinese northeastern city of Tumen.
China will also construct a power station and airfield in Rason, a special economic zone located roughly 31 miles from the Russian border on the banks of the Tumen River. Unusually in Northeast Asia, Rason’s port facilities are ice-free nearly year-round and North Korean officials view the zone as a potential shipping hub.
Two berths at the port are already in operation, with one used to ship coal from mines in northeast China down to Shanghai.
Rason is one of a number of special economic zones along the border between China and North Korea that were opened in the 1990s but left to flounder by North Korea’s government. That attitude is now changing, however, with tax breaks and low wages being promised in a bid to attract foreign assembly plants and technology factories.
Last June North Korea also approved a 50-year lease by China of two islands in the economic zone of Sinuiju, across the Yalu River from the Chinese city of Dandong.
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