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Was Kim’s China visit an economic lifeline for border development?

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In the past year, a growing sense of detente on the Korean peninsula has brought about a wave of optimistic real estate purchases in the Chinese city of Dandong, the Asian continent’s main portal to North Korea.

Now that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has again visited China and invited President Xi Jinping for a long-awaited reciprocal visit, is it time to uncork the champagne for Dandong and begin the revival of the northeast Chinese economy via the doorway to Korea? Is Dandong ready to become, as some mainland outlets so breathlessly asked in April 2018, the “Shenzhen of northeast China”?

Probably not yet. It was easy to see the reasons for the optimism in Dandong in 2018: a significant North Korean delegation attended the Pyeongchang Olympics, there was a meaningful inter-Korean summit at Panmunjom, and then another one, and the South Korean leader visited Pyongyang. US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talked about keeping tough sanctions on North Korea, but did so while developing a budding rapport with Kim, culminating in the Singapore summit. Kim broke his own deadlock on travel to Beijing, no longer keeping the Chinese Communist Party at arm’s length, and visited China no fewer than three times in 2018.

On January 7, Kim's train stopped over in Dandong, and he met some local officials, including the city’s party secretary, as well as the party secretary of Liaoning province. But there were few specifics discussed about cross-border trade and the big-ticket items are still waiting for North Korean action.

Kim has, at least, given development in the northwest salient of his country........

© South China Morning Post