China is considering building temporary floating bridges to transport relief goods to areas of North Korea hit by severe flooding, an official said on Wednesday.
“This is a humanitarian relief operation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing, when asked about a North Korean media report a day earlier saying that officials from the two countries discussed in Pyongyang issues related to building “new bridges” in their border areas.
The heavy rains caused the Tumen River, which runs between the two neighbouring countries, to overflow, leaving hundreds of people dead or missing in North Korea’s northeastern areas.
As the areas’ infrastructure has been severely damaged and at the request of North Korea, China is planning to build the bridges on the river to facilitate the passage of relief supplies, Lu said.
Lu stressed that China, as a neighbour of North Korea and a “major responsible country”, believes the construction is part of its humanitarian obligations.
Lu’s remarks came as Chinese Foreign Vice-Minister Liu Zhenmin is visiting North Korea for the third meeting of a joint border commission in Pyongyang.
Liu and his North Korean counterpart Pak Myong-guk attended the meeting, which was also joined by officials of public security, environmental protection, transport, water conservancy, national defence and port affairs from the two countries, state-run Xinhua reported.
The two sides reviewed the implementation of the agreement on the border management system since the second meeting and had an in-depth exchange of opinion on law enforcement and control of the border, cross-border infrastructure, cooperation in border regions and ports opening, where consensus was reached.
Pyongyang appreciated the assistance given by the Chinese in relief efforts after the flooding of the Tumen River and post-disaster reconstruction.
The two sides expressed their willingness to continue to make good use of the joint commission mechanism and strengthen communication and collaboration to jointly safeguard peace and stability of the border areas.
They also exchanged views on other issues concerning bilateral relations.
Liu was accompanied on the trip – the first known visit since February by a high-ranking Chinese official – by more than 10 Chinese officials.
He arrived in Pyongyang a day after a two-day closed-door meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, between former US diplomats and senior Pyongyang officials. The meeting was confirmed by South Korean and US governments.
Relations between Beijing and Pyongyang face uncertainty with China expressing dismay over North Korea’s nuclear programme.