by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) Aug 13, 2012
The uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un headed to China on Monday for talks on the joint development of two special economic zones, the North's state media reported.
Jang Song-Thaek is leading a North Korean delegation for a third round of talks on the Rason Economic Trade Zone and the Hwanggumphyong and Wihwado Economic Zone, the Korean Central News Agency reported.
Jang -- the husband of former leader Kim Jong-il's sister Kim Kyong-hui -- is also vice chairman of the North's National Defence Commission, according to the South's Yonhap news agency.
North Korea and China are jointly developing the Hwanggumphyong and Wihwado zone on two islands in the estuary of the Yalu river that marks their border. Ground was broken in December.
North Korea announced in June that foreigners would be allowed visa-free access to the new economic zone near its west coast, along with tax breaks.
Yonhap said in February that China would invest about $3 billion (2.4 billion euros) in developing a free trade zone around the northeast port of Rason bordering China and Russia.
The impoverished communist country is striving to revitalise its economy through foreign investment in its economic zones.
China, the North's main benefactor, has repeatedly urged it to open up the crumbling state-directed economy.
The North's dependence on Beijing has grown as international sanctions over its missile and nuclear programmes restricted access to international credit.
Following reports of the trip by Jang, the United States voiced hope that North Korea would change course and improve its people's welfare.
"They can open their country, come back into compliance (with international accords) and live in a place that respects human rights, respects the needs of their people," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.
"Or they can keep up what they've been doing and continue to face isolation and continue to face misery. So we're hopeful that the new leadership will consider changing course because that's obviously what's in the best interest of the North Korean people and the best interest of peace and security," she said.
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Outside View: North Korean domestic policy
Herndon, Va. (UPI) Aug 7, 2012
Undoubtedly, North Korea's new 20-something leader, Kim Jong Un, was thrilled by the Olympic weightlifting competition in which the country was represented by Om Yum Chol, 20. Om won a gold medal, setting a record by lifting three times his body weight. Most of Om's life was spent growing up under Kim's late father, Kim Jong Il, known by his people at times by various monikers, such as ... read more
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