‘Don’t Confuse UN Sanctions with Normal Bilateral Trade Relations': PRC Foreign Ministry on New North Korean Free Trade Zone

Today’s Huanqiu Shibao headlines a statement made by PRC Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang regarding expansion of trade with North Korea.  I’ll just go ahead and drop in the whole dispatch and translate it roughly:

环球时报记者段聪聪报道 2月25日,中国外交部发言人秦刚在例行记者会上就中国企业有可能获准开发两个朝鲜岛屿的事情表态:“不要混淆联合国制裁和两国正常的经贸往来。” Global Times reporter Duan Congcong reports on Feb. 25: Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Qin Gang, at a press conference, stated [the Ministry's] position on the situation of the possibility of Chinese enterprises obtaining permission to start business on two Korean islands : “Don’t confuse U.N. Sanctions with normal bilateral trade dealings.”

据报道,朝鲜为了吸引外国投资,决定将位于中朝边境临近辽宁丹东市的威化岛和黄金屏岛定为自由贸易区域,交由中国企业进行开发。两岛的投资规模分别为5亿和3亿美元。秦刚表示,不要混淆联合国制裁和两国之间正常的经贸往来与合作。对朝鲜实施制裁,联合国的有关决议有明确的规定,规定了制裁的项目。而报道中提到的项目属于中朝之间正常的经贸往来,并不违反联合国规定。According to the report, North Korea is attracting foreign investment, and has decided to establish a free trade zone on the islands of  Weihua [威化岛] and Huangjinbing [黄金屏岛] in the Sino-Korean border area of Liaoning’s Dandong city.  The dimensions of the two islands’ total investment will total 500 and 300 million U.S. dollars, respectively.  Qin Gang stated that it wasn’t necessary to confuse UN sanctions with normal bilateral economic dealings and cooperation.  Regarding the implementation of sanctions on North Korea, the related United Nations resolutions are very clear in their stipulations of the project.  But, the report noted, projects referring to inclusion of normal bilateral trade between China and North Korea are not forbidden by the UN stipulations.

据报道,朝鲜政府高层就比邻中国丹东的边境地区建立特别经济区方案正在进一步细化过程当中。参与此次朝鲜岛屿开发的中国丹东华商海外投资公司将组团赴朝就具体合作意向进行最后敲定。 According to the report, high officials in North Korea’s government nieghboring China’s Dandong border area are currently moving in a detailed way with establishing this special economic zone.  Participating in the development of this North Korean islands are Dandong Huashang Overseas Investment Corp. [ed.: company website here] which will organize and send a delegation to North Korea in order to cooperate and move forward with final resolution.

Deeper background on the proposed zone is available via this Dec. 9, 2009 report on the Hankoreh, and on this fine post (itself partially sourced back to an earlier Huanqiu snythesis on Sinologistical Violoncellist) by Michael Rank on the always-solid NK Economy Watch.

It’s also interesting to see North Korea re-emerging into this periodical’s headlines after a period of keeping North Korean news somewhat more circumspect.  Perhaps the meetings with Kim Jong Il in Hamhung (where outcomes may have been unknown for the PRC) somehow encouraged China to move ahead along a more supportive line for the DPRK.  Maybe Kim (rather accurately) mentioned that starvation was threatening social stability in the DPRK, and that he was propagandizing his desire for everyone to have rice, and, eventually, meat?  These kind of statements (minus the detailed emphasis on starvation such as one sees in Good Friends Reports and the Chinese Daily NK) have been making their way into Chinese media reports, at any rate, indicating that in spite of possible (Li Peng-style) apprehension toward the DPRK’s succession strategy and currency “reform,” that China is swinging back into a more comfortable mode of cooperation with the North Koreans which, although there are few apologists for the tactic in the United States, has local roots and would spark economic development for China in a remote but significant region.

As a little bonus, and since “bridge blogging” seems to be all the rage, here are a handful of comments from Huanqiu netizens on the story:

好的一步!!Good step!

开发对朝相当好!不论怎样建设发展都是朝鲜的!! Development is considerably good for North Korea.  No matter what construction or developement, it’s all [improvement] for North Korea!

好!对付美国对台军售,我们有的是办法!用不了多久,美国人就会发现,伊朗也出现了类似的问题,而在阿富汗遇到的问题,将让山姆有苦难言!  Good!  When America sells arms to Taiwan, we can use this solution!  It won’t take long before American people will see that Iran will pose an analagous problem, and that they will have problems in Afghanistan, and then Uncle Sam [fantastic link] will have to speak some bitterness!

我只想问万一朝鲜再爆核弹我们怎么办? We need to think: what are we going to do when North Korea tests another nuclear weapon?

朝鲜很有骨气,我们应该帮帮他。 North Korea really has courage, we have to help them.  [has the whiff of a 50-cent comment]

看来是真的。 Looks pretty good/genuine/correct.

中国在用和平的方式帮助全世界人民!美国在用武力的方式屠杀全世界的人民! China uses peaceful methods to help all the peoples of the world!  America uses arms to slaughter all the people of the world!

我要问那两个岛怎么变成朝鲜的  What I want to know is how did those two islands change to become Korean territory?

UPDATE: Perhaps what we are seeing is more a resumption of business as usual.  After all, this recent report from the Franco-Korean Friendship association indicates that Sino-North Korean trade was down 4% in 2009 from the year prior.

I also came across a few KCNA dispatches which were a bit surprising in their relatively explicit praise of Chinese economic methods, particularly this message from Hu Jintao to a North Korean delegation on Feb. 23:

[Hu Jintao stated:] Last year the two countries celebrated the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties and successfully held functions to mark the “year of China-DPRK friendship”, thus putting the traditional bilateral friendship on a new higher stage, he said, adding that this friendship is a precious treasure common to the two parties, countries and peoples and it is the steadfast policy of the Chinese party and government to boost this friendship.

Noting that he [Hu Jintao] is sincerely rejoiced over the fact that the Korean comrades are speaking highly of the achievements made by China in its socialist modernization drive, he expressed the belief that the fraternal people of the DPRK would successfully carry out tasks set forth in the joint New Year editorial for this year marking the 65th birthday of the WPK and register fresh successes in building a thriving nation…

from a rather amazing page on the phenomenon of money worship in China's rising global economic position -- via Huanqiu, click image for story

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6 Comments

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