Nov. 5 (UPI) -- China is planning to invest billions in infrastructure development in areas near the North Korea border, and the plans include rail expansion, according to a South Korean press report.
Provincial authorities in Liaoning confirmed Monday they are taking bids from contractors for massive projects including high-speed train networks that will connect the city of Shenyang with Baihe, at the foot of Mount Paektu, known as Changbai Mountain in China, Yonhap news agency reported.
The railroad will extend 260 miles when complete, and will run through Fushun, Tonghua, Baishan and Yanbian, an ethnic Korean-Chinese area of the northeast.
The project is expected to cost more than $9.5 billion.
Work began on a separate railroad extending from Dunhua, Jilin Province to Changbai Mountain in August 2017. Taken together, the projects signal China's commitment to developing its "rust belt" provinces and its growing interest in North Korea ties.
Wang Zilian, the Party committee secretary of the Changbai Mountain Management Committee, said a combination of trains, expressways and airports could improve transportation to a destination that has remained popular with South Korean tourists.
The mountain holds symbolic significance for North and South Koreans.
"In the case of more development more than 10 million tourists can visit Changbai Mountain every year," Wang said in 2017.
The uptick in Chinese investment comes at a time when both countries appear to be growing closer through cultural and sport exchanges.
North Korea's Rodong Sinmun reported Sunday North Korean and Chinese musicians jointly performed in Pyongyang and Kim Jong Un was in attendance.
Kim reportedly "shook hands with every Chinese artist" after the performance and praised them for their songs, including the patriotic "I Love The Chinese People."
China has supported the easing of North Korea sanctions.