CHINA AND NORTH KOREA have reopened the railway across the Yalu River, separating the two countries.
A freight train crossed from North Korea into Dandong on Sunday, returning the next day laden with supplies, according to reports from South Korea subsequently confirmed by foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian:
After friendly consultations between the two sides, freight in goods in Dandong has resumed.
Japanese reports say a Chinese locomotive went to Sinuiju in North Korea. It picked up a dozen boxcars, took them to Dandong and then hauled them back to Sinuiju laden before returning with the same number of empty boxcars.
Pyongyang cut the rail link about a year and a half ago when it closed the country’s borders due to Covid-19 fears. Since then, only a tiny volume of trade has been conducted, via sea. There have been several reports since that the rail link was about to reopen.
The border closure exacerbated North Korea’s most severe economic contraction in more than two decades, with reports emerging of widespread hunger and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, making rare admissions of the country’s difficulties in recent months.
The suspension of trade with China, which has long provided a lifeline to its neighbour, probably dealt a greater blow to Kim than the international sanctions to deter his nuclear weapons program.
The question now is whether the restarting of the trade, albeit on a small scale, will ease the pressure on Kim to return to the stalled disarmament talks. The Biden administration has just imposed additional sanctions on Pyongyang, which has stepped up its ballistic missile testing in recent weeks.