The authorities in China’s Jilin Province are investing billions of Yuan in multiple projects along the Sino-North Korean border. The construction is concentrated in areas adjacent to major North Korean border towns in the mountainous region, giving it the hypothetical potential to provide massive opportunities for future Sino-North Korean economic growth.
According to Jilin Shinmun and other local media outlets, the high-speed train, which will allow travel from Hunchun to Changchun in two hours at speeds of up to 250kph, is under construction at a predicted cost of 37.7 billion Yuan.
Jilin Province is also planning a “five border region highway” in its 12th Five-Year Plan from 2011 to 2015. The Changchun to Hunchun leg is already open, while legs from Changchun to Huyinan, Songjangheo to Changbai, Changchun to Mt. Baekdu to Yanji, Changchun to Linjiang and Changchun to Jibian are under construction with the typical degree of Chinese speed. Among these locations, Changbai, Linjiang and Jibian all face major North Korean towns (Hyesan (Yangkang Province), Chungkang (Jagang Province) and Manpo (Jagang Province)).
The province is also putting weight behind railway construction travelling towards North Korea; from Nanpin to nearby Musan (in North Hamkyung Province), Kayisan to Sambong (in North Hamkyung Province) and Changbai to Hyesan.
When all the construction is complete, there will be a bridgehead connecting the Tumen to the Yalu and linking all North Korea’s major cities with the Chinese economic miracle. If trade and cooperation between the two countries grows more active than it is now, the newly built highways and railways will form the core pathway for commercial distribution.
However, there are also major concerns with the plan. First and foremost, defection will become more difficult when the new developments are complete. The regions where highways and railways are now appearing have long been major defection routes or hiding places for new defectors.
In particular, a warning device installed by Jilin police in border villages, while an improvement in terms of public security, can also be used to report North Korean defectors to the authorities. The device, known as the ‘BF-01’, has been installed in 6,000 homes along the border at a cost of 5 million Yuan, connecting them with public security offices in an emergency. When pressed, names, addresses and the sound from the scene is transmitted to the local police station, border guards and neighbors.
“Regardless of whether North Korea conducts a nuclear test, it seems that North Korea and China are developing the northeastern region,” Shin Jong Ho, a research fellow with the Center for Northeastern Asian & Inter-Korean Affairs, part of the Gyeonggi Research Institute, commented. “In the future, if cooperation between North Korea and China gets better then these transportation routes will be very useful.”