By: Benjamin Katzeff Silberstein
After a very long hiatus over the pandemic, China’s new ambassador to North Korea has taken up his post in Pyongyang, AP reports:
Wang Yajun will help in the development of the traditional friendship between the “close neighbors sharing mountains and rivers,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a daily briefing.
China is North Korea’s main source of economic aid and political support, but interactions have been disrupted by travel restrictions imposed in an attempt to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The ambassador’s posting comes as North Korean state media reported that leader Kim Jong Un urged his nuclear scientists to increase production of weapons-grade material to make bombs to put on the country’s widening range of weapons.
The report Tuesday followed a series of missile launches — seven this month alone — and rising threats to use the weapons against North Korea’s enemies.
(Full article here.)
Does this signal a broader relaxation in North Korea’s border restrictions, brightening prospects for trade to open up more broadly as well? Maybe. After all, there’s been signs for many months (well over a year), from infrastructure construction to (fairly tangible) rumors reported from the border area. And imports have increased, particularly of food, resulting in prices stabilizing somewhat.
At the same time, there are good reasons to doubt it. Welcoming back a Chinese envoy is, after all, a decision more in the realm of foreign policy and diplomacy than economics and pandemic prevention. Thus far there have been no reports in outlets such as Daily NK or Rimjingang suggesting a major reversal in trade policy is imminent. To the contrary, the bigger pattern seems to be the state centralizing control over trade while keeping it at a very small minimum. Whatever trade regime emerges from this, it may not look like the old one.View Original Article