North Korea and Russia are strengthening economic convergence with the advance of a cooperation programme that would see North Korea trade earth metals to Russia in exchange for the latter’s assistance in reinforcing its decaying and underdeveloped power grid.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s informal acceptance last week of the Kremlin’s invitation to join Moscow’s 70th anniversary celebration of its World War II victory this May, has revived speculation over the tightening of Russo-North Korean convergence and progress on the $20 billion to $30 billion economic cooperation programme launched earlier last year.
“The North and Russia are discussing a plan whereby Russia will get rare earth metals from the North in exchange for assistance in improving the dilapidated power grid,” a source from Beijing was reported to have declared by North Korean press.
According to the report, North Korean technicians arrived in Russia earlier this month to be trained by Russian power technicians on power grid upgrades and transmission network construction to remedy the country’s notoriously meager electrical supplies.
Last October, North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong visited Russia’s 2,010-megawatt-capacity mega-hydroelectric power plant on the country’s Far-East Bureya river.
The North Korean Economy Watch issued an article last month reporting that works on 10 hydropower plants along the 217 kilometer-long Chongchon River running through North Korea’s central region were underway.
“The construction of the dams on the Chongchon River began in January 2013 and is considered as a second-phase construction following the completion of the Huichon Power Station (in Jagang Province) in April 2012,” the report noted.
The second construction phase started in 2013 and is expected to be completed by October this year, bringing night light to the capital through direct transmission lines.
The 10 stations are expected to generate about 120,000 kilowatts, putting an end to Pyongyang’s frequent blackouts.