Homes demolished in path of long-stalled Sino-DPRK “bridge to nowhere”: imagery
New Yalu River Bridge, completed in 2013, may finally be connected to North Korean roads
Six years after nearly completing the modern New Yalu River Bridge crossing the Sino-DPRK border at its westernmost edge, it appears work has finally begun this week to connect the bridge to North Korean roads, satellite imagery reveals.
Road path clearing and the demolition of small homes to the east of the bridge terminus on the North Korean side has occurred since September 15, NK Pro analysis finds, according to a comparison of medium-resolution satellite imagery provided by Planet Labs.
The shape of the clearing and demolition form a clear path from the bridge along the projected course towards an existing highway to the northeast.
The bridge, located to the south of Sinuiju and the Chinese border city of Dandong, was first completed — though not connected — in late 2013, with additional road paving done in August 2014, high-resolution Google Earth imagery shows.
Since then, however, work has yet to begin on the North Korean side to build the remaining roughly 4km stretch of road, leaving the bridge unusable and leading to its being dubbed the “bridge to nowhere.”
Daily Planet Labs imagery of the area appears to show that two rows of homes at the southern edge of a cluster of around 60 homes began to be demolished between September 15-21.
Beginning the following day, a stripe of land the same width of the bridge’s road appeared discolored in the land between the bridge terminus and leading to the cluster of homes 1.3km to the east, indicating preparation for road work may have begun as well.
Between September 22-25, there is evidence of additional clearing of homes in the same strip at the south of the cluster, though the shape of the road path did not appear to grow or extend to the east of the homes towards the highway.
The apparent long-awaited restarting of work to connect what North Korea calls the Korea-China Amnokgang Bridge (조중압록강다리) follows a report that Chinese President Xi Jinping recently promised to fund the construction on the DPRK side.
The report said that around 2.5 billion yuan ($350 million USD) in funding was pledged for roads and new customs facilities, and that the North Korean military would be involved in the construction.
Sources told Asahi, however, that Chinese engineers have been seen surveying the land on the North Korean side since late June.
NK Pro analysis has also found that a new complex of buildings — possibly the new customs facilities — has been under construction since April this year directly adjacent to the end of the existing North Korean highway that is expected to link to the bridge.
September 25-dated Planet Labs imagery shows a number of new structures had appeared in the area, though evidence has yet to emerge suggesting its use as customs facilities besides the timing and location of its construction.
China completed the much larger New Yalu River Bridge Port Trade and Logistics Zone (新鸭绿江大桥口岸商贸物流区) at the base of the bridge on its side in late 2016. The complex includes two large office towers, warehouse facilities, and other supporting structures.
The new activity in Sinuiju comes as North Korean media last November revealed leader Kim Jong Un’s plans for drastically redeveloping the border city.
In his inspection of a room including a large model of the redevelopment plans, maps were seen on the wall depicting a road network linking the new bridge towards both Sinuiju directly to the north and the existing highway to the northeast.
Signs of a planned special economic zone, to be built on the North Korean side by a Chinese company which also built a similar complex in Rason, have yet to appear despite plans to begin in spring 2019. Those plans also boasted of on-site customs procedures indicating its location could be close to the new bridge.
Edited by James Fretwell and Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK Pro
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