Does Beijing back North Korea SAR?

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 September, 2002, 12:00am

North Korea's new special administrative region is on China's border. It is headed by Chinese tycoon Yang Bin. Without Beijing's support, such an extraordinary venture cannot thrive.

So why have Chinese media apparently downplayed their coverage of the new capitalist enclave of Sinuiju? Diplomats in secretive North Korea's capital believe they know why: Pyongyang authorities blundered by failing to consult their mainland counterparts about the stunning venture in advance of its announcement, the diplomats say.

Last Monday, Mr Yang said Beijing had only learned of the SAR when Pyongyang made it public three days earlier, as it had been an internal matter. 'I believe the Chinese government will support this,' he added.

Mr Yang has been officially appointed chief executive of the SAR on the Yalu River, opposite the Chinese city of Dandong. The position gives him sweeping powers and makes him answerable only to North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong-il. Yet the news received only modest attention in his homeland.

Diplomats in Pyongyang said North Korea had made a mistake by not consulting Beijing, in view of the fact that it has been its closest ally since 1945. 'The most likely source of funds, manpower and technology for the SAR is China. With its proximity to Dandong and a Chinese as chief executive, Chinese firms are likely to invest where companies from other countries fear to tread,' one diplomat said.

'Many potential investors will look to the government for guidance and, consequently, its attitude will be crucial to the success of the SAR.' He added Mr Yang had a mixed reputation in China.

The Beijing Business Post on Saturday said Pyongyang floated the idea of turning Sinuiju into a 'development area' last year but only made contact with Mr Yang this year. The two sides then came up with the more radical SAR idea.