North Korea Getting More Dependent On China
North Korea is becoming increasingly dependent on China in a development that could weaken inter-Korean cooperation, the National Intelligence Service told lawmakers Thursday. The NIS said Beijing is prodding Pyongyang to open its economy, saying it can offer more support when that happens. It said North Korean and Chinese officials frequently inspect each other’s military and economic facilities.
The NIS said North Korean leader Kim Jong-il appeared unusually often in public this year, especially at economic and military functions. An NIS official said Kim replaced older aides with a new generation to consolidate his regime. NIS data show that China’s investment in North Korea increased from US$50 million last year to $88 million this year, mainly in the mining, fisheries and construction materials industries so it can easily recoup its investment. The North’s economic dependence on the world’s most populous country deepened as a result. Trade volume between the two countries was $1.18 billion in the first nine months this year, up 32.9 percent from $895 million in the same period last year. The North’s trade with China accounted for 48 percent of its entire trade volume. But Pyongyang’s import of food from China dropped from 61 percent in 1994 to 22 percent last year, thanks to aid from South Korea and the international community.