China Encourages North Korea to Join Silk Road Initiative

D-Bo, May 5, 2015, 9:15 a.m.

China has told North Korea that its ambitious Silk Road project aimed at reviving the ancient trade route between Asia and Europe would bring a "historic" opportunity to advance bilateral cooperation between the two nations.

The Chinese ambassador to North Korea, Li Jinjun, made the remarks at a meeting with the North's Vice Foreign Minister Ri Gil-song on Monday, the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang said in a statement.  It was the second time in less than two weeks that the Chinese ambassador publicly briefed North Korea on Beijing's Silk Road project.

With a US$40 billion fund, China has aggressively pushed for the so-called "One Belt, One Road" initiative aimed at building ports, expressways, railways and other infrastructure with its neighboring countries. "China is pushing ahead with the 'Belt and Road' initiative that will bring new and historic opportunities for bilateral and regional cooperation," the Chinese ambassador was quoted as telling the North Korean official.

On April 23, the Chinese ambassador met North Korea's Minister of Foreign Trade, Ri Ryong-nam, and expressed hope for the North to join the Silk Road project. The North Korean vice foreign minister, Ri, was positive over remarks by the Chinese ambassador.

"Developing friendly and cooperative relations between North Korea and China in line with requirements of the new century serves the common interests of people on both sides, and North Korea is willing to work together with China to that end," Ri was quoted as telling.

The Chinese ambassador also urged Ri to "seek common ground while shelving differences," in a comment that could be interpreted as Beijing's desire to develop a normal relationship with the North. The alliance between North Korea and China has been often described as being "forged in blood" during the 1950-53 Korean War, but it has been wearing thin recently as China's economic and military clout have been growing in Asia. Their political ties remain strained due to the North's defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons, but China still serves as the North's economic lifeline and diplomatic backer at the United Nations.

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