N. Korea leases port pier to Switzerland: report

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North Korea has leased a pier at a northeastern free trade zone to Switzerland as part of attempts to attract badly needed foreign investment, a report said Tuesday.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Pyongyang had forged the deal to lease one of the piers at Rajin port, in its Rason special economic zone bordering China and Russia.

It gave no details of the reported Swiss deal but said Pyongyang last year leased two other piers at the port on the Sea of Japan (East Sea), one to China for 10 years and another to Russia for 50 years.

A group of Swiss foreign ministry officials led by Beat Nobs, deputy secretary of state, arrived in Pyongyang on Monday, the North's state media said.

The Swiss embassy in Seoul could not immediately confirm the report.

Yonhap's source said some European companies also plan to invest in Rason, formerly known as Rajin-Sonbong.

The impoverished communist state is striving to revitalise its economy through foreign investment in Rason, which was declared a special economic zone in 1991 but failed to flourish.

In January this year a South Korean newspaper reported that China plans to invest about $2 billion to build up Rason as a regional export base. The port would give China's northeastern provinces direct access to the Sea of Japan.

China, Pyongyang's sole major ally and biggest trade partner, is actively exploring investment opportunities in North Korea as South Korea's economic influence dwindles amid political tensions.

© 2011 AFP

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