Northeast Asia economic cooperative invites North Korea to join

June 22 (UPI) — Member states of a multilateral Northeast Asian economic partnership agreed to invite North Korea, nine years after Pyongyang withdrew from the organization.

The Greater Tumen Initiative, composed of China, Russia, Mongolia and South Korea, stated in its Ulanbataar Declaration that stakeholders welcome the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration between the two Koreas, and the adoption of a joint statement at the U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore, according to South Korean news service Newsis.

Hwang Gun-il, head of the International Economic Affairs Bureau of South Korea’s Ministry of Strategy and Finance, said member states agreed to transition the GTI into an international organization, and work together in areas including transportation, trade, investment and tourism.

A source at the ministry said North Korea was invited to join, after leaving GTI in 2009.

“The Greater Tumen area is a region with great potential for cooperation with neighboring countries,” the source said. “Using the [South Korean] government’s new North [Korea] policy, we will work hard to strengthen economic cooperation.”

In Russia’s Far East region, plans are underway to discuss economic cooperation with North Korea.

Alexander Kozlov, minister for the Development of the Russian Far East, told RIA Novosti on Friday infrastructure would be discussed between Russian and North Korean officials, a possible reference to a bridge that could be built across the Tumen River.

Construction of the bridge was discussed in April, between Ri Kwang Gun of North Korea’s State External Economic Affairs Commission and Gov. Andrey Tarasenko of the Russian Far Eastern Federal District.

South Korea could play a key role in three-way trade.

Ahead of the lifting of any sanctions, South Korean lawmakers met with their Russian counterparts in Moscow, during South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s state visit to Russia, News 1 reported.

The two sides discussed exchanges that could support peace and stability on the peninsula, according to the report.