A new bridge under construction between China’s
Tumen City and North Korea’s Namyang City.
Image: Daily NK
Amid reports that trade between China and North Korea remains strong in the face of international sanctions, a new bridge is now under construction to link China’s Tumen City in Jilin Province with North Korea’s Namyang City in North Hamgyong Province.
A new photograph obtained by Daily NK reveals that work has begun on the foundations of a new bridge between Tumen and Namyang. The bridge will span the Tumen River adjacent to an older Tumen River bridge.
“Construction on the new bridge started in December, but work was temporarily suspended due to snowfall and cold temperatures,” said an inside source in China, who spoke with Daily NK on January 20. “The work should restart soon after Lunar New Year’s [January 28].”
“In the middle of December, they were only making measurements. Now, both sides have begun construction on the foundation of the bridge. The North Korean side was progressing slower than the Chinese side, but work picked up after some materials were brought in from China,” the source continued.
In September 2016, it was announced through North Korea’s media outlet KCNA that a deal was struck with China to collaborate on the construction of a bridge linking Namyang and Tumen. Japan’s Sankei Newspaper confirmed that construction on the bridge was underway in a report published on December 17.
The project is being carried out next to the existing bridge, which is reportedly old, narrow, and deteriorating. The original Tumen River Bridge was constructed in 1941 and is no longer capable of facilitating the growing amount of trade crossing the border.
Additionally, the river’s banks overflowed during last year’s flooding, which brought significant damage to North Hamgyong Province in August. Concerns were raised that the surging flood waters could destroy the old Tumen River Bridge.
When asked about the extent of the damage, the source said, “Some of the pillars of the bridge were damaged in the flood. But the bridge was already quite old. For the sake of both the Chinese and North Korean side, there was a need to facilitate growing trade by building a new one.”
On the Chinese side of the border, some are speculating that the new bridge is a sign of China’s growing interest in developing economic investment in the area. “The Chinese construction workers are saying that since the Chinese government donated building materials to the North Korean side, it’s an indication that China is more seriously committed to the project,” the source continued.
“There is talk that the Chinese initially proposed the project, and North Korea merely accommodated the request. The location of the new bridge is near Rajin Port and Chongjin Port, two other important gateways to China. This provides a wider perspective on China’s interest in developing more connections between the two countries.”
When asked how North Korean residents are responding to the development, a source in North Hamgyong Province said, “Some people believe that the new bridge indicates that trade will heat up, while others ask how that would be possible given the intensity of international sanctions placed on the country.”