Kim's visit to areas near China sparks talk of joint project

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a farm in Sindo county, in an undated picture released by Korean Central News Agency.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a farm in Sindo county, in an undated picture released by Korean Central News Agency.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SEOUL • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has visited island areas near China, the country's state media said yesterday, in a move believed to help boost economic cooperation with Beijing.

Mr Kim, who is Chairman of the State Affairs Commission, visited a reed farm in Sindo county in North Pyongan province, which borders China, according to the North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

His rare visit to the remote region has sparked talk that Pyongyang may be seeking to boost its economic cooperation with Beijing.

It was his first such inspection trip since his summit with US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12, and his third visit to China on June 19 and 20, South Korean news agency Yonhap said.

Sindo county includes Hwangkumpyong - an island in the Yalu River near the Sinuiju-Dandong border where the North and China agreed in 2011 to develop a special economic zone. But the project went into limbo after the North's execution in 2013 of Mr Kim's uncle Jang Song Thaek, who was considered pro-China. Ties between North Korea and China had earlier been strained over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.

Mr Kim wants North Korea to develop a large-scale production base for reed to produce chemical fibre materials, Yonhap yesterday cited KCNA as reporting.

"Kim's visit to the island areas reflected his will to seek the development of a special economic zone with China," said Professor Lim Eul Chul of the Institute for Far East Studies at Kyungnam University.

His entourage included Mr Kim Song Nam, the first vice-director of the international department of the Workers' Party of Korea, who is known to be in charge of China affairs in the party, Yonhap reported.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 01, 2018, with the headline 'Kim's visit to areas near China sparks talk of joint project'. Print Edition | Subscribe