The head of a new Russian business council says that infrastructure is the best area for investment in North Korea.
Pyongyang has neglected infrastructure in the country for an extended period of time, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by the chairman of Russia’s Business Council for Cooperation with North Korea, which was formed last week. “It seems to me the most promising areas of cooperation between our countries are infrastructure projects – roads, utility networks, [and] tourism,” wrote Vitaly Survillo in an email, according to Yonho Kim of Voice of America.
Russia sees potential
Survillo says that government agencies in both Russia and North Korea will be involved in the first step towards greater cooperation. Finding new channels of communication between the two countries is the main aim at this point.
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The council is also interested in North Korean resources, including the secretive nation’s mineral wealth, for use in new business opportunities.“North Korea has significant reserves of natural and labor resources,” Survillo said.
One project began back in October 2014, a rare joint initiative which will see the Russians improve North Korea’s railway system in return for the right to exploit their mineral wealth. “If someone needs our support, we will be glad to assist in facing the challenges of successful development of the project,” Survillo said.
He went on to say that the biggest obstacle to Russia‘s involvement in North Korea is “the loss of the habit of mutual economic cooperation.” Survillo said that the two countries are almost starting from “scratch” after the recent expansion of economic and political relationships.
Greater cooperation: to what end?
Not only are the two nations implementing joint projects, but last year Moscow wrote off $10 billion of Pyongyang’s $11 billion debt. The strengthening of the relationship will see North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visit Moscow in May in order to attend a event marking the Russian victory over Nazi Germany.
Perhaps the Russians see an opportunity to exploit the resources of a struggling neighbor at little cost, or could they be interested in strengthening North Korea as a potential ally and thorn in the side of the United States?
The world watches on as Vladimir Putin continues to make us wonder just what he,and Russia, are going to do next.