Archive for ‘North Korea’

09/04/2019

China’s bridge to North Korea opens 3 years after it was built – but why now?

  • Buses from the North make return trip to China on Monday, according to South Korean media
  • Opening of Jian-Manpo border crossing had been delayed during heightened tension over sanctions on the North
The bridge crosses the Yalu River on the border between China and North Korea. Photo: Kyodo
The bridge crosses the Yalu River on the border between China and North Korea. Photo: Kyodo
China and North Korea have finally opened a border bridge built between the two countries in 2016, in a potential boost to the North’s economy as Beijing tries to balance its concerns about its neighbour against ongoing international pressure for it to denuclearise.
A border checkpoint and bridge connecting the Chinese city of Jian with North Korea’s Manpo were open on Monday, following three years of delays since they were built.

Four buses crossed the border from North Korea in the morning and returned to the hermit kingdom about an hour later carrying about 120 people, who included tourists, according to South Korean media. It was not known whether the people travelled from North Korea or boarded the buses in China.

The bridge had remained closed on its completion in 2016, with Beijing taking a cautious approach at a time when it faced international scrutiny of whether it was fully implementing UN Security Council sanctions on the North.

to enforce the sanctions after a UN committee accused it and South Korea of being reluctant to enforce a ban on coal exports from the North.

But there has been a change in the status of the Jian-Manpo border crossing – built near to where Kim’s father, the former leader Kim Jong-il, was reported to have crossed the border in 2010 in a rare trip outside his country.

Kim’s second summit with Trump in February collapsed against a backdrop of continued economic struggles for North Korea. Beijing is wary of instability around the North Korean regime posing a threat to the security of China’s northeast, fearing an influx of refugees into one of its poorest regions.

North Korea’s trade has suffered to the extent that the Korea Development Institute said in February it had almost collapsed.

The North’s exports to China – which accounts for the bulk of its trade – plunged 87 per cent year-on-year in 2018, according to data compiled by South Korea’s Korea

International Trade Association, while there have been myriad other economic problems at a time when Kim has vowed to deliver on the economy.

In April last year, Kim announced that Pyongyang was moving away from its twin-track “byungjin” policy of developing nuclear weapons and the economy simultaneously to focus exclusively on rebuilding the economy.

Boo Seung-chan, adjunct professor at the Yonsei Institute for North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the bridge’s primary use would be to boost tourism in North Korea, which is not restricted by the UN sanctions.

“Tourism is the only sector left for the North Koreans to earn foreign revenue,” Boo said. “Besides, China can only offer its financial help through the tourism sector as it does not wish to violate UN sanctions.

“China’s Korean peninsula policy is to maintain the stability of the region. It may also be drawing a road map for when sanctions may be lifted, finding its means to accelerate its economic engagement to increase its sphere of influence.”

Source: SCMP

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26/02/2019

Trump: US and China ‘very very close’ on deal

US President Donald Trump addresses US governors at the White HouseImage copyrightAFP

President Donald Trump has said that the US and China are “very very close” to signing a trade agreement, potentially ending the long-running feud between the two countries.

Mr Trump told US governors on Monday that both nations “are going to have a signing summit”.

“Hopefully, we can get that completed. But we’re getting very, very close,” he said.

It follows a decision to delay imposing further trade tariffs on Chinese goods.

At the weekend, Mr Trump said both sides had made “substantial progress” in trade talks following a summit in Washington last week.

The rise in import duties on Chinese goods from 10% to 25% was due to come into effect on 1 March.

Instead, Mr Trump said the US is now planning a summit with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping at the US President’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

US shares rose on the decision to delay tariffs, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing 0.23% higher at 26,091.9.

The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also finished trading in positive territory.

As he prepared to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vietnam, Mr Trump also tweeted that a China trade deal was in “advanced stages”.

Mr Trump’s decision to delay tariff increases on $200bn (£153bn) worth of Chinese goods was seen as a sign that the two sides were moving ahead in settling their damaging trade war.

Last week, Mr Trump noted progress in the latest round of negotiations in Washington, including an agreement on currency manipulation, though no details were disclosed.

Sources told CNBC on Friday that China had committed to buying up to $1.2 trillion in US goods, but there had been no progress on the intellectual property issues.

Donald Trump and China's Vice Premier Liu He in the Oval OfficeImage copyrightAFP
Image captionPresident Trump met China’s Vice Premier Liu He on Friday

Gregory Daco, chief US economist at Oxford Economics, said: “We had anticipated such a delay and believe a handshake agreement in which China will promise to import more agricultural products, work towards a stable currency and reinforce intellectual property rights protection will be achieved in the coming weeks.

“However, we don’t foresee a significant rollback of existing tariffs, and see underlying tensions regarding China’s strategic ambitions, its industrial policy, technological transfers and ‘verification and enforcement’ mechanisms remaining in place.”

What has happened in the trade war so far?

Mr Trump initiated the trade war over complaints of unfair Chinese trading practices.

That included accusing China of stealing intellectual property from American firms, forcing them to transfer technology to China.

The US has imposed tariffs on $250bn worth of Chinese goods, and China has retaliated by imposing duties on $110bn of US products.

Mr Trump has also threatened further tariffs on an additional $267bn worth of Chinese products – which would see virtually all of Chinese imports into the US become subject to duties.

US and China's tariffs against each other

The trade dispute has unnerved financial markets, risks raising costs for American companies and is adding pressure to a Chinese economy that is already showing signs of strain.

It has also stoked fears about the impact on the global economy.

Last year, the International Monetary Fund warned the trade war between the US and China risked making the world a “poorer and more dangerous place”.

Source: The BBC

24/02/2019

North Korea’s Kim on his way by train to summit with Trump in Vietnam

SEOUL/HANOI (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his way across China by train on Sunday, media reported, bound for a high-stakes second nuclear summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi.

Few details of Kim’s trip have been announced but he left Pyongyang by train on Saturday afternoon for the Feb. 27-28 summit accompanied by senior North Korean officials as well as his influential sister, North Korea’s state media reported.

Trump and Kim will meet in Hanoi eight months after their historic summit in Singapore, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, where they pledged to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

With little progress since then, the two leaders are expected to focus on what elements of North Korea’s nuclear programme it might begin to give up, in exchange for U.S. concessions.

In rare, revealing coverage of Kim’s travel, while it is still going on, the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper featured photographs of him getting a red-carpet send-off in Pyongyang and waving from a train carriage door while holding a cigarette.

 

He was accompanied by top officials also involved in the Singapore summit, including Kim Yong Chol, a former spy chief and Kim’s top envoy in negotiations with the United States, as well as senior party aide Ri Su Yong, Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and defence chief No Kwang Chol.

The North Korean leader’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who acted as a close aide in Singapore, is again part of the delegation, the North’s KCNA news agency reported. It made no mention of his wife, Ri Sol Ju.

The extensive coverage in the secretive North’s official media was a contrast to the limited reporting that has traditionally prevailed during his foreign trips.

Other senior officials, such as his de facto chief of staff Kim Chang Son and Kim Hyok Chol, negotiations counterpart to U.S. envoy Stephen Biegun, were already in Hanoi to prepare for the summit.

With scant progress since the June summit, the two leaders are likely to try to build on their personal connection to push things forward in Hanoi, even if only incrementally, analysts said.

Both sides are under pressure to forge more specific agreements than were reached in Singapore, which critics, especially in the United States, said lacked detail.

 

“They will not make an agreement which breaks up the current flow of diplomacy. (President Trump) has mentioned that they’ll meet again; even if there is a low-level agreement, they will seek to keep things moving,” said Shin Beom-chul, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

LEARNING FROM VIETNAM

The Trump administration has pressed the North to give up its nuclear weapons programme, which, combined with its missile capabilities, poses a threat to the United States, before it can expect any concessions.

North Korea wants an easing of punishing U.S.-led sanctions, security guarantees and a formal end of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in a truce, not a treaty.

Few details of summit arrangements have been released.

Some lamp posts on Hanoi’s tree-lined streets are decked with North Korean, U.S. and Vietnamese flags fluttering above a handshake design, and security has been stepped up at locations that could be the summit venue, or where the leaders might stay.

It could take Kim at least 2-1/2 days to travel to Vietnam by train.

Some carriages of a green train were spotted at Beijing’s station on Sunday, but it was not confirmed it was Kim’s.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Kim’s train had passed through a station in China’s port city of Tianjin, southeast of Beijing, at around 1 p.m. (0500 GMT).

China has given no details of his trip. Its foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Two top North Korean officials who were not in Singapore but will be in Hanoi are Kim Phyong Hae and O Su Yong, vice chairmen of the party’s Central Committee, respectively in charge of personnel management and industrial affairs, KCNA reported.

O is a former minister of electronics and vice minister of metals and machine building. He might try to learn about Vietnam’s development of manufacturing, analysts said.

Kim Jong Un may tour some economic facilities while in Vietnam.

Vietnam, like North Korea, fought a war against the United States and keeps tight control over its people and economy. It has been touted as a model for North Korea’s development.

Vietnamese media reported that a North Korean cargo plane arrived on Sunday carrying personnel who appeared to be Kim’s security guards and state media workers. They were driven under police escort to a downtown hotel.

Source: Reuters

16/02/2019

As the clock ticks, there’s a path to a ‘win-win’ outcome in US-China trade talks

  • Ankit Panda writes that a meeting between Donald Trump and Xi Jinping could result in a way out of the impasse, at least temporarily
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 February, 2019, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 February, 2019, 6:04pm

The usual cast of characters were back at the negotiating table, trying to find a way to stem another round of US tariff increases that were stayed in December after the Buenos Aires G20 meeting between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were back in Beijing, where they again sat across the table from Vice-Premier Liu He, China’s lead trade negotiator. The US delegation also met Xi himself at the end of the talks on Friday.

Both nations said they had made progress to settle their disputes, but admitted there were still difficult issues to deal with. Negotiators will continue the talks in Washington next week.

The stakes are clear and the clock is ticking. The two sides need to arrive at an understanding by March 2, the day on which Trump has said he will move forward with an increase in tariffs.

At least that was the idea. In recent days, Trump has made multiple remarks that suggest the March deadline is anything but absolute. He has hinted he would be open to pushing it back if he sensed that a deal was around the corner. Reports have even suggested the White House is considering another 60-day extension of the tariff truce.

“They’re showing us tremendous respect,” Trump said of China’s attitude in the negotiations, adding that talks were “going along very well”. With Trump slated to travel to Asia at the end of the month for a second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, the prospect of a second meeting between him and Xi – right before the anticipated deadline – is very real. What’s slowly slipping through the cracks in this process is a sustainable and long-term agreement on structural reform in China, which is what’s been at the centre of the Trump administration’s trade grievances.

Already articulated US concerns cover a broad range of Chinese practices. The ideal short-term measures the American side would like to see include unconditional market access for US firms in China; a less insulated environment for state-owned enterprise decision making; greater regulatory transparency; and fairer legal protections for American businesses in China.

As with so many aspects of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, the US president’s personality is taking over the process, leaving his deputies who are doing the negotiating in a disadvantageous position. For China, the obvious answer then becomes not to discuss the nuances of what kinds of structural reform might be necessary with Lighthizer, but to simply get Xi in the room with Trump.

This mirrors the lesson that North Korea’s Kim has taken away over the course of nearly a year of negotiations with the US. Instead of expending any serious diplomatic capital in a detail oriented negotiation with the secretary of state or the president’s special representative, the key is to simply meet Trump and work out high-level arrangements mano a mano.

In this climate, we can’t expect a real resolution on the core issues. Everything from American misgivings about Beijing’s interventionist industrial policies that protect Chinese enterprises to broader structural shifts in the nature of the US-China economic relationship since the turn of the century are on the table today – and they’ll stay there.

Xi and Trump may well find a temporary way out of the impasse, giving global investors the runway necessary to avert the panic that would likely ensue if the US pushed ahead with a tariff increase on US$200 billion in Chinese goods. Even if China doesn’t quite give the United States a down payment on structural reforms, Xi can promise Trump that he will chip away at the trade deficit while leaving untouched the issues that a more detail oriented negotiator like Lighthizer might zero in on.

If there is a “win-win” outcome here, it would be for Trump and Xi to find an agreeable arrangement that would allow the US president to walk away looking tough to his base while leaving China’s core, long-term industrial policy trajectory unharmed. That would strip away any remaining negotiating leverage the US side might have within the trade war, and it’s not unlikely.

Source: SCMP

08/12/2018

Chinese president meets DPRK foreign minister

CHINA-BEIJING-XI JINPING-DPRK FM-MEETING (CN)

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in Beijing, capital of China, Dec. 7, 2018. (Xinhua/Yao Dawei)

BEIJING, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) — Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in Beijing on Friday, calling for more efforts to advance the long-term, healthy and steady development of bilateral relations.

Xi asked Ri to convey his cordial greetings to Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) and chairman of the State Affairs Commission of DPRK.

Xi said that during Kim’s three visits to China this year, the two leaders had a thorough and in-depth exchange of views over major issues including deepening China-DPRK friendly cooperation as well as promoting regional peace, stability and development.

“I’m happy to witness the effective implementation of the important consensus reached by the two sides,” Xi added.

The year of 2019 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic ties between China and the DPRK. “The Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese government highly value China-DPRK relations, and this is a principle that China unswervingly adheres to,” Xi said.

“Currently, the relations between the two countries have ushered in a new chapter,” he said.

Talking about celebration activities for the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries, he called on the two sides to take the occasion to promote the long-term, healthy and steady development of bilateral relations.

The Chinese side supports the DPRK people to explore a development path suited to its national conditions under the leadership of Kim, and hopes that the DPRK will have a promising future in all its endeavors, the president said.

Xi pointed out that since the beginning of the year, the situation on the Korean Peninsula has taken on positive changes, as evidenced by the fact that the Korean Peninsula issue has come back to the right track of political settlement.

He expressed the hope that the DPRK and the United States meet each other halfway, and accommodate legitimate concerns of the other side, so as to ensure continuous and positive progress in the peace talks over the peninsula issue.

“China will, as always, support the amelioration of inter-Korean relations and facilitate reconciliation and cooperation between the two sides,” Xi said.

The president urged diplomatic services of China and the DPRK to strengthen communication and make concerted efforts to advance China-DPRK relations and the political settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue.

For his part, Ri conveyed Kim’s cordial greetings and best wishes to Xi.

A series of important consensus reached between the two countries’ leaders during Kim’s visits to China this year serves as guidance for elevating the traditional friendly relations to a new level, Ri said.

Ri said the DPRK is willing to work with China to hold well celebration activities marking the 70th anniversary of DPRK-China diplomatic relations next year, consolidate the traditional friendship with China and enhance bilateral cooperation.

He also said the DPRK is committed to denuclearization on the Peninsula, and is ready to keep close communication and coordination with China over peace and stability on the Peninsula and in the region.

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