Night Watch

North Korea-Russia: Expanding economic ties. On 5 June the sixth session of the "Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation" met in Vladivostok and reached agreement on a dozen or more trade and economic development projects.

North Korea agreed to Russian participation in a gold mine in exchange for second-hand Tu-204 air liners.

It also agreed to review a Russian proposal to allow a Russian commercial fleet of tugs, refueling ships, a floating crane and a dredger to be stationed at the northeastern port of Rajin to keep the port open to large ocean-going ships and accessible to fishing fleets.

Russia agreed to maintain security and safety of the rail link between Rajin and Russia. Russia also agreed to allow North Korea to open accounts in a Russian bank to handle transactions in rubles.

Concerning trade, North Korea agreed to review its ability to provide coking coal and 50,000 tons of steel and magnetite.

As for mineral exploration, North Korea was said to be anticipating the cooperation of Russian companies in the development of talc, copper, quartzite, vanadium anhydride and ultra-anthracite deposits.

An agreement was made to conclude relevant conventions between the DPRK Ministry of Crude Oil Industry and Russia's "TAIF" company to build a gas station network in North Korea.

The North Korean Government decided to simplify procedures for Russian investors to use multiple-entry visas for business purposes and to use the Internet and mobile phones.

Russian Far East Development Minister Galushka stressed to the press that "the North Korean Government has allowed this agreement exclusively for Russian entrepreneurs and that overseas investors, including China, have not enjoyed such benefits to date."

Comment: This was a working meeting that appears to have made significant, even extraordinary, progress. The backdrop to this meeting was President Putin's decision to forgive 90% of North Korea's debt to Russia and to extend easy repayment terms for the rest. The many items discussed appear to cover the full agenda of issues under negotiation for years

What is striking is that the trade and development menu resembles the kinds of projects that the late Chang Song-taek was arranging, but with Chinese investors. Kim Jong Un has decided to make similar arrangements with the Russians. North Korea has tilted towards Russia. Russia apparently intends to make North Korea a future source for critical minerals.


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