China will launch high-speed rail to North Korea on Tuesday

The Chinese government announced the launch of a high-speed rail line to the North Korean border on Monday. The new high speed train from central China to the border with North Korea will open for business on Tuesday, according to Chinese government news agency Xinhua.

The new rail line has been being built for five years, and stretches 127 miles from the Chinese industrial center of Shenyang to the border city of Dandong on the Yalu River. Of note, the new high-speed train shortens the journey from 3.5 hours in the past to slight more than one hour.

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Analysts point out this new high-speed rail line highlights China’s commitment to North Korea and its despotic ruler, as it moved ahead with the project despite chilly diplomatic relations with the rogue nuclear state.

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The new rail link is a big deal for the border region of China. According to an unnamed railway official quoted in the Xinhua article, the new high-speed train will “raise the region’s economic competitiveness”.

Regional analysts point out that 80% of trade between China and North Korea moves through Dandong, which is located across the border from a North Korean special economic zone on Hwanggumpyong island.

Of note, China has promoted the development of three special economic zones in North Korea along the border, both for access to low-cost labor and to encourage the isolated North towards economic reform. China’s relations with North Korea are, however, currently at an historic low, as it has been publicly rebuking the rogue state for its development of nuclear weapons.

Despite only minimal progress in the new economic zones by North Korea, China has notably improved the transportation infrastructure on its side of the border, such as the construction of a new bridge from Dandong into North Korea.

In an interesting foreign relations pas de deux, as the relationship between China and North Korea has weakened over the last few years, China has improved its diplomatic relations with South Korea, Asia’s robust fourth-largest economy.