As a detail to add to the logistical maps we put up a little while ago, we put together all major border crossings from the PRC and Russia into the DPRK.
When assessing the trafficability of the DPRK and how useful it would be either as a shipment corridor for the ROK or as an active participant in trade, its important to figure out how porous it actually is. This map only includes locations that are visible in current imagery in Google Earth. Not included are broken, but repairable, bridges or potentially trafficable dams. The included sites all appear to be capable of carrying commercial traffic, with the exception of a rough site immediately east of Mount Baekdu.
As mentioned in the key, red sites are exclusively rail crossings, which are the Russia-DPRK crossing near Khasan in the East and the PRC-DPRK crossing in Chongsu. Blue sites are exclusively road access. Purple sites are rail and road crossings. Sinuijiu has a bridge hosting rail and road, while the other sites have nearby, but still separated, road and rail bridges. The single green point is a rural, unpaved road crossing on the DRPK side, though the Chinese side appears to be paved in parts.
Zoomed out slightly for better context: While our logistical lines represent the broad corridors for shipment, Curtis Melvin over at NK Economy Watch and USKI has painstakingly outlined the actual rail paths in his fantastic NK Uncovered project.
Interestingly enough, there is a railroad line running through Kanggye and Chongsu in the western portion of the country. On the PRC side, previously this had just looped back into the same line that runs into Sinuijiu. Now, with the PRC’s effort at modernizing and expanding northeastern railroad lines, the Kanggye/Chongsu rail does extend deeper into southeastern Liaoning, though lack of modern imagery means we do not yet have a complete visual map of this line. As we chart out the PRC’s northern train lines, hopefully the imagery for this region will update and allow us to fill in some important logistical holes.
The important message to take from these maps is that the DPRK is fairly well connected into the regional rail networks and has been since at least the Japanese Colonial Era. While modernization would certainly be necessary, the base infrastructure is in place. Rail runs through all major corridors in the DRPK, with at least two trans-peninsular lines, one running along the belt between Pyongyang and Wonsan, and a second that follows the rough and meandering PRC-DPRK border on the DPRK side. We have not included this in our major logistical lines map yet, as we do not know that it actually would play a significant role in shipping, especially compared to the more efficient-appearing beltline farther south.
Either way, as mentioned previously, if the DPRK opted to participate in trans-peninsula shipping, it would open two massive corridors for the ROK to utilize, allowing much faster access to the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Manchurian lines, and, by extension, the rest of Asia and Europe.
From these maps, it should be obvious that highways and roads are our next mapping focus, as they make up the majority of border crossings. We continue to assess cargo and energy ports, as well. Hong Won Choi over at NK News has an article about the port at Rajin expanding its capacity, and the NK News Ship Tracker is a good resource for visualizing known DPRK affiliated or related ships within range of public-data-submitting AIS beacons.
All things to keep watch of. We will continue to refine and update the maps as we parse through all the data we’ve been amassing.