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Monday, April 7, 2014

China reaches high speed into North Korea... and post-Juche East Asia

KBS detailed yesterday* a high speed line to be built by China across North Korea. It would follow the Pyongui Line (Pyongyang-Dandong), and furthermore the Gyeongui Line that connected Seoul with Pyongyang.

According to KBS, the DPRK Economic Development Commission confirmed in February a December 2013 agreement that would change the whole region, even if in the short to medium term only a minority were to use the infrastructure.

If the line falls short of reaching into China and the DMZ by stopping at Sinuiju and Kaesong, it gives a clear advantage for China and its technology in post-Juche Korea. South Korea will have little choice but to connect - or to try the alternate Rason route with Russia.

Construction would last 6 years, with two waves that have not been fully detailed yet:
  • 1st stretches: 80 km
    • From the North: Sinuiju Station - Tongrim Station (Sinuiju-Dongnim, 40 km)
    • From the South: Kaesong - Yonan (Gaesong-Yeonan, 40 km)
  • 2nd stretches: 296 km
    • From the North: Tongrim - Chongju - Sinanju - Pyongyang (Dongnim-Jeongju-Sinanju-Pyongyang, 147 km)
    • From the South: Yonan - Haeju - Sariwon - Pyongyang (Yeonan-Haeju-Sariwon-Pyongyang, 149 km)

It also mean that Chinese executives and engineers will roam the country for a long while, including at the doorsteps of Kaesong Industrial Complex. China will operate for 30 years on a BOT basis (Build Operate Transfer), likely into post-Juche DPRK. 

Note that this agreement happened around the JANG Sung-taek purge, and that over the past few months, China also gained long term concessions to use North Korean land.

The silent "Hanschluss"* seems well under way. And this Northeast Project of a railway doesn't even need to rewrite history: it's the economy, stupid.

Seoul Village 2014
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*  "개성~신의주 고속철 북중 계약 체결" (KBS News 20140407) - NB: thanks Nikola "Kojects" Medimorec for the link!
** see "Game over for the 'Hanschluss' scenario?", "Re-engaging North Korea - A Four Party Talk"(on blogules: "China-North Korea : the Great Hanschluss still the base case scenario")... 

20140409 addendum (remarks and reminders):
. This KBS story has not yet been confirmed by any other media, and a MOU is by no means the final deal. We learn how long the construction would take (6 years), but not when it would start, if it does. What matters here is the nature of the concessions made by the DPRK as they (re)negociate with China.
. Note that the Shenyang-Dandong high speed section will be inaugurated in 2015 ("China to open high speed rail link to North Korean border in 2015"). Dandong and Sinuiju are separated by the Yalu River, but I don't know if, among the many new bridges planned by China between both nations, some are already planned as rail-friendly. Shenyang shall also be connected with Beijing, Harbin, and Dalian.  

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