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China makes trade zone at North Korea border 'national priority'

By
Elizabeth Shim
The Chinese central government’s national trade inspection team held meetings in Yanbian and Changbai and agreed to promote a trade zone near North Korea, according to a South Korean press report. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
The Chinese central government’s national trade inspection team held meetings in Yanbian and Changbai and agreed to "promote" a trade zone near North Korea, according to a South Korean press report. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 7 (UPI) -- China is prioritizing a trade zone bordering North Korea in possible preparation for increased commerce between the two countries, according to a South Korean press report.

Yonhap reported Wednesday an area near the city of Hunchun, in Jilin Province, was designated a "national zone," a sign China is getting ready for a new chapter in economic cooperation with Pyongyang.

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According to a post on Jilin province's official online site, the Chinese central government's national trade inspection team held meetings in Yanbian and Changbai and agreed to "promote" a land route between key areas in the region as a national priority.

Hunchun is located about seven miles from a border trade zone where about 100,000 tons of cargo is handled every year. The area is relatively undeveloped and a bridge across the Tumen River built in 1938 links the two sides.

The new policy could mean a new structure could be built to connect Jilin Province to North Hamgyong Province.

Jilin's provincial government said the decision is a "new milestone" that is "important to the development of ethnic minority regions."

The area includes a significant ethnic Korean-Chinese population.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping could soon visit the North, and according to China-based sources, North Korea is relaxing phone restrictions.

Radio Free Asia reported in late October North Korea is making international roaming available to a select group of Chinese visitors.

The service costs about $28, RFA's sources said, and the service may be restricted to approved businesspeople.

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