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China to build North Korea expressway, documents show

By Elizabeth Shim
China to build North Korea expressway, documents show
North Korea has relied on a domestic workforce for construction projects. File Photo by DPRK Today

Jan. 15 (UPI) -- China could be getting a head start on North Korea infrastructure projects, according to a South Korean press report.

Television network KBS reported Tuesday China plans to loan North Korea about $890 million for the construction of an expressway that would link the cities of Wonsan and Hamheung along North Korea's eastern coast. Work begins in April, according to obtained documents.

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The Wonsan-Kalma coastal tourist area has been highlighted in North Korea state media as a major development zone. Kim Jong Un was seen visiting the site a few times in 2018, and has said publicly he expects the tourist resort, which includes a hot springs, to be completed by Oct. 10, 2019.

According to KBS, a public Chinese bidding system, on behalf of North Korea's overseas economic agency, posted an invitation to bid on an expressway linking the two North Korean cities on Oct. 30, 2018.

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The total construction area covers 70 miles, and the project is expected to take 36 months.

A Chinese agency official told KBS that after the bids are collected, the next step would be to conduct due diligence in North Korea.

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Documents submitted by North Korea show the roadbed is divided into five zones, and includes an 800-meter tunnel, and two 440-meter tunnels.

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North Korea initially pursued the construction of the expressway in 2014, but the project was postponed. As relations improve between the two countries, China appears to be emerging as the most likely partner, according to KBS.

Sanctions against North Korea have prevented states from taking a more active role in economic development.

North and South Korea held a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for a railroad in December, but the tracks are not in use.

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Frustrations have also been mounting in the South over the suspended Kaesong Industrial Complex, a jointly operated factory park in the North.

Tongil News reported Tuesday an application to visit from South Korean business executives is likely to be deferred for the seventh time.

The Gaeseong Industrial Complex Emergency Response Committee in the South has said they are skeptical the government is willing to resume operations.

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