Execution may hit China-North Korea projects in short term: Experts

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R), walks past his uncle North Korean politician Jang Song-thaek, during a military parade to mark the birth anniversary of the late leader, Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang.

The execution of the uncle of Pyongyang's top leader may temporarily affect some cooperation projects with China, but economic ties between the neighbours will remain stable in the long run, analysts say.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea's official news agency KCNA reported on Friday that Jang Song-thaek, uncle of supreme leader Kim Jong-un, was executed on Thursday for being a traitor.

Jang was in charge of economic affairs and cooperation with China.

"Following Jang's execution, the DPRK is likely to review cooperation projects with China," said Gao Haorong, an expert on DPRK studies at the Xinhua Center for World Affairs Studies, a think tank under Xinhua News Agency.

Jang led delegations to China for negotiations on economic projects, including Hwanggumpyong Island, a special economic zone near Dandong in Liaoning province.

Chen Qi, a professor in international affairs at Tsinghua University, said that after Jang's execution, China and the DPRK may need some time to rebuild connections to continue cooperation on such projects and to further their economic cooperation.

But Wang Junsheng, a researcher in East Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the impact will be short-term and limited.

"Pyongyang needs China to support its economic development, and this offers opportunities for Chinese companies, so both sides want to advance ties," Wang said.

"Both countries have the will to consolidate their relations, given frequent high-level visits," he said.

The latest such exchange saw Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zhang Kunsheng meet a visiting delegate from the DPRK's Foreign Ministry on Friday.

At a news briefing on Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China hopes and believes that economic relations between the two countries will continue to advance.

Hong said it is in line with the interests of both to develop economic ties. China will further promote economic cooperation with the DPRK.

He described Jang's execution as "an internal affair" of the DPRK.

A report in the Republic of Korea newspaper Chosun Ilbo said China and the DPRK signed an agreement on a special economic zone on Monday, the day the DPRK announced Jang had been purged.

Lyu Chao, a researcher in Korean studies at Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said, "If the report is accurate, it shows that Beijing-Pyongyang ties will not be affected by Jang's case too much."

He said many economic cooperation projects between China and the DPRK have proceeded well since Kim took office two years ago.

The DPRK designated 14 new special economic development zones this year, on top of the four zones already in the country, according to an article carried in October on the website of the Rodong Sinmun newspaper run by the DPRK's ruling Workers' Party of Korea.

In March, Kim called on regional governments to set up special zones in each city and province.

The 67-year-old Jang, who was married to Kim's aunt, used to be vice-chairman of the National Defence Commission and secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea administration department.

But he was stripped of all posts and titles on Sunday for "anti-party and counter-revolutionary crime".

The KCNA said Jang was "a traitor who perpetrated anti-party, counter-revolutionary factional acts in a bid to overthrow the leadership of our party and state and the socialist system," and that he was a corrupt womanizer.

The ROK's Unification Ministry expressed deep concern on Friday over Jang's execution.

"The government is closely monitoring the series of incidents that are happening in North Korea with deep concern," Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Eui-do said in a televised statement.

He said the ROK will prepare fully for "all possibilities" in the DPRK, adding that it will consult closely with its allies.

US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf criticised the way the DPRK government treated Jang, saying the United States is following developments closely.

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