chapter  4
26 Pages

Transboundary river cooperation between North Korea and China

The Yalu and Tumen rivers
WithSeungho Lee

The next East Asian state dealt with is a chapter entitled “Transboundary river cooperation between North Korea and China: the Yalu and Tumen rivers”, written from a Korean perspective by Seungho Lee. According to Lee, China has been accommodating in cooperating with North Korea in transboundary rivers, namely, the Yalu River and the Tumen River. After providing an overview of the two rivers, he demonstrates that the focus of cooperation has been on hydropower development in the case of the Yalu River, and trade, investment, energy, tourism, and the environment in the case of the Tumen River. It is interesting to note that in light of the challenges such as floods, maintenance of dams, and sustainability issues pertaining to the Yalu River, Lee proposes trilateral cooperation among South Korea, North Korea, and China with reference to its water resources management. In the case of the Tumen River, Lee notes that the “sluggish development” of the Greater Tumen Initiative (GTI) could be attributed to its shortage of funding, lack of general and specific long-term plans, differences in the political and economic systems of member nations, and uncertainties about the membership status of North Korea and Japan. Naturally, extra efforts are needed to overcome these challenges in order to have sustainable development and cooperation in the Tumen River Basin. Lessons could also be drawn for multilateral cooperation from other rivers, for example, the Mekong River. This is precisely one of the major points in the conclusion when Lee touches on the implications of two case studies for the Lancang/Mekong River Basin. In this regard, he suggests that China’s new initiative, the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism, can have “a far-reaching impact on transboundary river relationships in due course”. He also emphasizes that seeking benefits for all parties in transboundary rivers would go a long way and that such an approach would be helpful to China’s BRI. Last but not least, he suggests that cooperation with regard to the Yalu and Tumen rivers could pave the way for peace and prosperity, and continuous dialogues among the countries would create enhanced benefits for all.