Russia, North Korea make new plans to build first road bridge

The Korea–Russian Friendship Bridge is the only crossing point between the two countries (TowerCard/CC BY-SA 3.0)
North Korea and Russia have agreed to build a road bridge over the Tumen River that marks their 17km-long border.

The two sides agreed to the project during Russian president Vladimir Putin’s visit to Pyongyang on 19 June, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

At present, North Korea’s land connection to Russia is limited to a single rail bridge, so a road crossing is expected to increase trade and tourism – once it is connected up to a road network.

RFA points out that a similar road bridge, the New Yalu, was built between North Korea and China about 10 years ago, but has yet to open because the Koreans have not built a road for it. As a result, all traffic between the two countries must use the Sino–Korean Friendship Bridge, completed in 1943.

The idea of a road bridge has been a recurring feature of Russian–Korean relations.

Talks about building a Russian bridge, possibly with the involvement of South Korean companies, were held in 2015, but these ended in 2016 after North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test.

They were taken up again in 2019 by Alexander Kozlov, Russia’s Far East development minister, and Kim Young-Jae, North Korea’s minister for external economic relations, but these ultimately came to nothing.

However, with North Korea’s emergence as an ally of Russia, and an important supplier of ammunition to the Russian army, it is more likely that the project will go ahead this time.

Choi Eun-ju, a Research Fellow at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, told RFA’s Korean service that even if war in Ukraine ends and Russia has less incentive to engage with Pyongyang, the two sides would probably remain close in the long term.

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