Infrastructure & Energy

New China-North Korea Tumen Road Bridge Nears Completion

Key Findings

  • Satellite imagery shows that the new Namyang-Tumen road bridge connecting North Hamgyong province in North Korea with China is nearing completion and could be open to traffic as early as the end of 2019.
  • Taken as a whole the Tumen railyards are the largest Chinese rail facilities on the North Korean border. 
  • China has four rail connections with North Korea, while South Korea has two and Russia has one. (See the Beyond Parallel report on North Korean rail connections.)
  • This will continue to be a major port of entry for North Korea-China economic interaction that only promises to increase if international sanctions are lifted or eased.
An overview of the railroad bridge and two road bridges connecting Namyang and Tumen. (Copyright © 2019 by Maxar Technologies)

Located on the border with China, in the northeast corner of North Korea, is the Namyang-Tumen crossing (42.949050° 129.849236°) in North Hamgyong Province. This crossing consists of both the Tumen railroad bridge (Tumen-gyo) and, 600 meters to the northeast, the Tumen Road Bridge (Tumen-taegyo). These bridges connect the small North Korean city of Namyang to the much larger Chinese city of Tumen. Taken as a whole the Tumen railyards are the largest Chinese rail facilities on the North Korean border—Dandong being the second largest. Namyang is a minor city and rail point with no industry of significance other than being the point of entry to access North Korea’s Hamgyong-bukto.

A close-up view of the railroad bridge connecting Namyang and Tumen. (Copyright © 2019 by Maxar Technologies)

In addition to the existing rail and road bridges a new larger road bridge has been under construction 20-meters north of the existing bridge since Spring 2017.1 While the construction is being undertaken by the China Railway Construction Corporation it may be in cooperation with elements of the North Korean Ministry of Land and Maritime Transport. Construction of the 500-meter-long concrete slab bridge has proceeded relatively steadily and by June 2018 satellite imagery showed that the bridge piers and abutments were in place and the road deck had just begun to be poured. Recent satellite imagery acquired on June 17, 2019, and ground imagery acquired by NKNews Pro, indicate that this new road bridge is nearing completion.2

A close-up view of the original road bridge and larger new road bridge under construction connecting Namyang and Tumen. (Copyright © 2019 by Maxar Technologies)

The concrete sub-deck has been poured along the entire length of the bridge, finish concrete decking has been partially poured, guard rails and utilities have yet to be installed, and miscellaneous other work is in progress along the length of the bridge. Construction supplies are present on both ends of the bridge and a group of four tractor-trailers, likely newly arrived from China via the original road bridge, are parked in front of the North Korean customs station. Barring unforeseen developments, and at the current rate of progress, the bridge could be open to traffic by the end of 2019.

Close-up view of construction supplies and a group of four tractor-trailers parked in front of the North Korean customs station. (Copyright © 2019 by Maxar Technologies)
Close-up view of construction supplies in front of the Chinese customs station. (Copyright © 2019 by Maxar Technologies)

Should international sanctions be eased or lifted and economic cooperation between China and North Korea increase, it is logical that the Tumen rail facilities and Namyang road and rail bridges will be the primary ports of entry for goods moving between Tumen and the Rason Special Economic Zone (specifically the port of Rason [Najin] 88 kilometers to the south), Chongjin and the coal and rare-earth mines in Hamgyong-bukto.

References

Show 2 Footnotes
  1. For additional information and satellite imagery concerning the crossing see, Victor Cha, Joseph Bermudez, and Marie DuMond. “Making Solid Tracks: North Korea’s Railway Connections with China and Russia,” Beyond Parallel, January 7, 2019, https://beyondparallel.csis.org/making-solid-tracks-north-koreas-railway-connections-china-russia/.
  2. Colin Zwirko. “Chinese state railway corp nears completion of new Sino-DPRK cross-border bridge,” NKNews Pro, July 9, 2019, https://www.nknews.org/pro/chinese-state-railway-corp-nears-completion-of-new-sino-dprk-cross-border-bridge/.