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China agrees to provide power to N. Korea's Rason economic zone
SEOUL, Sept. 13 (Yonhap) -- China has agreed to provide electricity to a special economic zone in North Korea's northeast, a source said Tuesday.

   The agreement to provide power to the Rason economic zone was signed between Jang Song-thaek, vice chairman of the North's powerful National Defense Commission, and China's Commerce Minister Chen Deming, during an economic meeting on June 8, the source said.

   The source cited Chinese officials familiar with the project.

   The project calls for laying high-voltage power distribution lines between the Chinese border city of Hunchun and the North's city of Rajin as well as building a thermal power plant in Rason, the source said.

   Construction for the power lines is likely to begin soon while the two sides are in talks to work out details for the envisioned power plant, the source said.

   "Power is an important infrastructure in developing the Rason special economic zone," said Cho Bong Hyun, an expert at the Seoul-based IBK Economic Research Institute. "China's agreement to provide power increases the chances of the zone's success."

   The North designated Rason as a special economic zone in 1991 and has since striven to develop it into a regional transportation hub, though no major progress has been made.

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