North Korea construction project aims to reopen border with China

North Korea is converting an air base near its border into a fumigation facility for shipping containers by train, a move analysts say could lead to a resumption of trade with China. and eroded US hopes that economic pressure could force Pyongyang back to the nuclear negotiating table.

Satellite images from the center for strategic and international studies seen by the Financial Times show the construction project at Uiju, near North Korea’s northwestern border with China, after two years of isolation and struggle. economy.

North Korea closed its land borders with China and Russia in January 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in a mass exodus of foreign aid workers and diplomats. The country then just proceeded limited trade by sea with China, by far its largest trading partner.

North Korea is also struggling under the impact of international sanctions and food crisis, after a poor harvest and crop damage from heatwaves and flash floods.

Mode maintains that it has No cases of Covid-19 have been recorded, a claim that international medical experts were unable to verify because they were blocked from delivering aid or a vaccine.

“How the length and completeness of the lockout reflects the fear of death [Pyongyang is] about virus transmission,” said Victor Cha, President of CSIS Korea. “In that context, the effort to create a quarantine facility shows how desperate they are to open some level of trade, because they can’t stay closed for much longer.”

Satellite image of North Korea-China border, near Uiju . Air Base

The disinfection facility is located at Uiju Air Base, across the border with Dandong, a city in northeastern China and North Korea’s main commercial access point © CSIS / Beyond Parallel / Maxar 2021

Despite reports of chronic hunger across the country, the Kim regime has confounded observers by enduring economic isolation far harsher than one might imagine. international sanctions regime designed to force Pyongyang to give up its nuclear and weapons programs.

“There is no more effective sanction against the North Korean regime than this lip-lock, and that calls into question the thesis that tightening it as much as possible by means of other measures,” Cha said. Sanctions will make it easier for them to denuclearize.”

Korea has promote America support the easing of sanctions, while China and Russia recently presented a draft proposal at the United Nations Security Council calling for sanctions relief.

Father added: “If you are a believer in sanctions, these images show you that the door to confrontation with the West may be closing. “As they get more help from China, the pressure on the regime will start to release.”

Work on the conversion of the Uiju base began in March after the North Korean government passed an import fumigation law aimed at establishing a “system and sequence of disinfecting imported goods at border crossing points.”

Satellite image of Uiju Air Base in November 2019

Satellite image of Uiju Air Base in November 2019. . .

Satellite image of Uiju Air Base in October 2021, with the addition of new warehouse facilities and CSIS/Beyond Parallel/Maxar 2021 rail links

. . . and in October 2021, with the addition of new warehouse facilities and rail links © CSIS / Beyond Parallel / Maxar 2021

“The sea trade has been going on for months, but if you have ships that cross the border and go into this facility every day, you can have trains going from there to Pyongyang, creating a regular stream of imports. much more”. Colin Zwirko, a senior analyst at information services NK Pro based in Seoul, said.

He added that the North Korean regime appears to be building similar facilities along the border with Russia.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service recently told lawmakers that Pyongyang is working with China and Russia to resume cross-border rail transport, according to MPs who attended the meeting.

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