Asphalt laying is complete on the Sinuiju-bound half of the highway
Commercial satellite imagery indicates construction crews have completed paving the Sinuiju-bound half of the highway from the New Yalu River Bridge, which now connects to the North Korean road network. The work represents another milestone towards completion of the project, which started in 2010 but had been stalled for several years until work resumed in late 2019.
Paving of the two-lane highway section between the bridge and an interchange began between April 24 and April 27, according to photos published by NK Pro, and imagery from May 13 shows that section complete, except for a couple of final meters.
Figure 1. Sinuiju-bound lane paved.
Along the highway, trucks continue to dump dirt across a large agricultural area. This work appears to be early preparations for the construction of a customs and immigration post. The dirt will provide a solid foundation for concrete to be laid, bringing the level of the ground up to that of the road and helping prevent the area from being flooded during spring high tides.
Within the dirt, several large areas have been left uncovered, where buildings will likely be constructed.
Figure 2. Dirt being dumped for construction preparation.
The dirt is being trucked to the area from a small hill a few kilometers northeast of the construction site. Part of the hillside is being eaten away for the project up to an area where there are dozens of burial mounds. These are common throughout hills in North Korea and are likely from the “Arduous March” mass famine that killed hundreds of thousands of North Koreans in the mid-90s or could even date back to the Korean War. Some of the mounds appear to have been excavated at the center (identifiable by a shadow in the center of the mound) so it is likely that remains were exhumed for reburial elsewhere before the excavation work began.
Figure 3. Excavation work near construction site.
On the Chinese side of the bridge, construction on a large customs building and exhibition hall was completed in 2016 but the site still has work to be completed. Asphalt has yet to be laid across a large portion of the site that will serve as a customs checkpoint, according to a depiction of the area that had previously been published in Chinese media.
Figure 4. Rendering of Chinese side of Yalu Bridge.
There are also several other buildings that could be hotels that were originally planned for the site. Should the Chinese plan still be the same, the start of construction work on the Chinese side of the bridge may provide some indication as to when the bridge might open to traffic.
Figure 5. Customs building and exhibition hall completed in 2016.
In central Sinuiju, at the customs area for the current border crossing, activity still appears to be low. The area is usually bustling with trucks crossing to and from China but has been quiet since the border was closed in late January due to the coronavirus outbreak.
On the May 13 image, 11 trucks can be seen parked in the customs yard. This is an improvement from an early April image when the yard was completely empty but it is still a fraction of the mass of trucks usually seen around this area.
Figure 6. Trucks parked at customs yard.
North Korea continues to work at an aggressive pace towards completion of its half of the New Yalu Bridge project.