Necessary repair work on the North Korean side of the bridge connecting the country with China over the Amnok (Yalu) River has been delayed following a last-minute plea by the North Korean authorities, Daily NK has learned.
A source in North Pyongan Province close to the issue told Daily NK on August 22 that Pyongyang cited pressing foreign-currency shortages in its request to the Chinese authorities to put off the month-long maintenance period, scheduled to commence on August 20.
“The Chinese Railway Ministry warned of ‘imminent and severe accidents’ if the bridge [on the North Korean side] remains in its current state of disrepair, ” the source said, “but the North Korean side refused to give in [and begin the repairs] and so customs is still operating normally.”
It is not yet known when the repair work will get underway. “Trading companies were told to operate normally, and affiliated vehicles are increasingly ignoring imposed freight loads limits in a bid to transport the greatest volume of goods possible,” the source said.
According to a source close to the issue in China, notwithstanding the maintenance delay, China will continue to exert pressure on North Korea to carry out the repairs on its end. As such, trading companies are overloading vehicles with goods to hedge against the economic losses expected during the repair period.
“Trading companies interpret the ambiguous start date for repairs as an ominous sign. They know that the ax could drop at any time, and that obviously makes it difficult to plan. This notion has ushered in a flurry of trade activity, evoking a very different environment to the restrictive one palpable following the sanctions implementation,” the North Pyongan-based source concluded.