Tumen River Area

Study Tour to Tumen River Area 17-29 October,2001.

International team with Dr. Sahiya Lhagva, Vice Chairman of Board of Directors of Mongolian Development Research Centre (MDRC), Dr.Nyamtseren L, Executive Director of MDRC, Prof. Xu Shigang, Vice Director of the Center for Northeast Asia Studies of Jilin Province, China(CNAS), Dr.Prof.Yu Guo-zhen, Professor of CNAS and Prof. Vladimir Zverkov, General Director of the Center for Strategic Researches, Russia undertook study tour to Tumen River Area 17-29 October, 2001.

The study tour was organized by MDRC with assistance of CNAS in making necessary arrangements with North Korean and Chinese officials and researchers, organizational issues. The Team visited the Tumen River Development Area, including Changchun, Hunchun, Fangchuan (border of three countries China, DPRK and Russia), China and Rason (recently two close cities Rajin and Sonbong administratively united into one - Rason), DPRK. Meetings with government officials and researchers were organized in these cities on which was given detailed information on development of the area and discussed key issues that face.

Substantial progress has been made in formation of Tumen River Economic Area since signing in December 1995 three agreements that laid the formal basis of cooperation between five countries in the area.

China, which has been growing rapidly, made significant efforts to develop its boarder territory Tumen River Area. During last 10 years China invested nearly 6 billion RMB on infrastructure development in there. In 1993 railway Tumen - Hunchun was constructed, the railway from Hunchun to the frontier of Russia, namely, to Kraskino was built in 1996. Expressway of more than 500 km from Changchun to Hunchun is now under construction, 14 km of the expressway have opened to the traffic. Highway from Hunchun to the Sino-Russian port (17km), and the Sino-DPRK port (39km) are also now open for traffic. Yanji airport has extended and flights from Yanji to Seoul are being implemented. In only four months of last year, there were 10599 passengers with 88 flights. Digital and mobile communication facilities have been installed which can connect with over 180 countries and regions. New border crossing facilities and buildings are built.
China considers Hunchun as the major Chinese point for Tumen River Area -'Develop Hunchun, develop Tumen River Area, develop friendly and cooperating relations with Northeast Asian countries'(June 25, 1995. President Jiang Zemin) and decided to set up Hunchun Export Oriented Processing Zone in Hunchun Border Economic Cooperation Zone in April 2000, approved the establishment of Hunchun Sino-Russian Frontier and Nongovernmental Trade Zone in February 2001, thus, granted new series of most preferential open position. More than 200 million RMB have been invested in infrastructure development of Hunchun Border Economic Cooperation Zone. As a result Hunchun became a city with population of 250 000 people from a small town of 25 000. In 2000 import and export cargo in Hunchun reached 206 490 tons, 275 550 person passed Chinese boarder through Hunchun. Foreign investment in Hunchun Border Economic Cooperation Zone has reached 90.43 million US$, mostly from ROK, Japan and Hongkong.

With the infrastructure development and increase of bilateral and multilateral trade and investment cooperation improvement marine transportation developed rapidly. Since 1995 a bulk cargo sea route from Hunchun to Iyomishima via Zarubino and a regular container route from Hunchun to Fusan via Rajin have been operating successfully. A regular container route from Hunchun to Akita and Mayizhiru via Poset is also open, a passenger-cargo land and sea route from Hunchun- Sokcho via Zarubino was opened in April last year. By the end of 2000, the total number of transport operations in the above routes was 86, with 35 978 passengers, 391 standard containers, and 44 867 pieces of cargo.

Russia also made efforts to develop infrastructure in her territory. Highway from Sino-Russian port to Slavyanka has constructed, railway link to Makharina started operate. Russia's Nakhodka Free Economic Trade Zone is operating.

Northern region of DPRK maintains infrastructure components in its territory and provides necessary conditions for economic cooperation in the area. Road from boarder point China to Rason and Rajin seaport are operating normally and with increase of flow of goods, efforts to improve are being taken. Rajin-Sonbong Economic and Trade Zone has established and foreign investment in there has reached 2 million US dollars. Businesspeople from China, Hongkong and Taiwan are the major investors. At present in Rason 150 enterprises with foreign investment are operating. Rason seaport has capacity of 350 000 tons of cargo per year.

Despite the above progress there are number of problems which impede more speedy development. These problems have different roots, consequently, should be analyzed carefully and on dependence of the purpose of investigation. Below follows general conclusions of the Team.

1. Steps are taken to develop Tumen River Area, and progress is made, especially, infrastructure development is notably. Priority is given to bilateral, multilateral trade and tourism in boundary territories of both China and DPRK.

2. In spite of progress in infrastructure development in each country's boarder area, efforts have been made for that, are different. Russia and North Korea have made less efforts than China, mostly due to their internal economic and political developments in 1990s. For instance, partly because of not sufficient financial resources and privatization policy, construction of Russian part of railway link Hunchun-Makharino is invested not by Russian government neither by local government, a private company is the investor. Private investment is a positive matter, but, in this case, there was not sufficient government support and operating of the link still has some technical problems.
In Rason officials recognize importance of full utilization of Rajin seaport capacity, nevertheless, the flow of goods going through this port still remains not sufficient for that. Besides, there is still some need to improve service facilities, for instance, electricity supply is not highly reliable because of oil problem in electricity generating. Road to border with China is not paved, although the connecting road in territory of China is well constructed and forms a contemporary road network.

3. Resource complementary is the starting point of the common view on potential of development in this part of Northeast Asia. The five countries, which joined to the Tumen River Area Development Program recognize this as the basis for practical steps. However, with real steps toward the common strategic goal number of national interests came out and require reconsideration of have agreed points.

4. With the globalization geographic position of the area involves greater interest for superpowers. According to number of research China and North Korea are most interested in building international channel Rason-Nan Yang-Tumen-Changchun-Mongolia-Russia to Europe. As note some authors for China, Mongolia and North Korea route Seoul-Pinging-Xin Yizhou-Dan Dong-Shenyan-Mongolia-Russia to Europe is preferable than route Seoul-Pyongyang-Rajin-Hasan to Europe. According to some information, China, Russia and the USA are now discussing about possibilities of construction East - West Transport Corridor. Thus, geopolitical point, likely, is to play more importantly in future of development of the area. However, for while, it is just an idea, time needs always for becoming a dream into reality.

5. The development of Tumen River Area is to depend more on positions of Russia, North Korea, Japan and the USA than positions of China and Mongolia because the last two have clear and stable view on that matter.

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