China-North Korea bridge to close temporarily

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Repairs, not sanctions, given as reason for suspending key trade route.

A bridge over the Yalu River that provides a vital connection between China and North Korea will be closed for repairs shortly, China’s Foreign Ministry said Friday.

The “friendship bridge” between the two countries “will be closed temporarily in the near future for repair work on the bridge floor” by the North Koreans, Geng Shuang, a ministry spokesman, said at a press briefing in Beijing.

Geng refrained from giving a specific date for when the bridge will be closed, but said, “It will be reopened after the repair is finished,” in effect denying speculation that the closure is part of Beijing’s efforts to exert pressure on North Korea over its nuclear and missile development.

The aging iron bridge serves as the only logistics road route between the North and Dandong, the Chinese border city through which roughly 70% of the two countries’ trade passes. It closed for about a week for repairs last summer and has undergone maintenance on weekends.

A document circulating on the internet, purportedly issued by Dandong’s customs office, declared that the so-called Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge would be closed for 10 days starting Friday, but an official denied that the office had issued such a notice.

Vehicles were seen crossing the bridge as usual on Friday.

By DAISUKE HARASHIMA
Nikkei Asia

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