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DPRK delegation visits Beijing

By Ding Qingfen and Li Xiaokun (China Daily)

08:22, August 14, 2012

Trip may signal move to boost battered economy, experts say

A delegation from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is visiting Beijing to hold talks with officials on economic and trade ties, sources told China Daily.

Specialists in Korean Peninsula affairs said the visit will play a crucial part in improving the DPRK economy following food shortages and severe flooding.

Members of the delegation will attend a conference on Tuesday, sources said, covering the two DPRK special economic zones involving both countries.

One of the DPRK special economic zones is in Rason, and the other is located on the Hwanggumphyong and Wihwa islands.

The delegation is also expected to visit Liaoning and Jilin, two border provinces.

Jang Song-thaek, vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission of the DPRK, is leading the delegation, a source said on condition of anonymity.

The visit comes after reports that the DPRK is ready to launch economic and agricultural initiatives.

It also follows closely on an official visit to Pyongyang by Wang Jiarui, head of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China. During Wang's visit, DPRK leader Kim Jong-un said that "developing the economy and improving people's livelihood so that the Korean people lead happy and civilized lives is the goal the Korean Workers' Party is working toward".

Experts said Jang's visit marks part of the DPRK's reportedly new national strategy to reform its economy.

"Economic issues will undoubtedly be a key topic of the visit", given the recent series of moves taken by the DPRK, said Fan Jishe, a specialist in Korean Peninsula studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"But it is not only about strengthening China-DPRK economic and trade relations, but is also part of the DPRK's new measures in growing its economy under the new leadership," he explained.

Earlier this month, Kim Yong-nam, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of the DPRK, paid a three-day visit to Vietnam.

In addition to the food shortage and sanctions by foreign nations, Fan said, the DPRK's economy is further challenged by recent floods.

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