China–North Korea Relations
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China–North Korea Relations

Between Development and Security

Edited by Catherine Jones and Sarah Teitt

Developing a new approach to exploring security relations between China and North Korea, this timely book examines China’s contradictory statements and actions through the lens of developmental peace. It highlights the differences between their close relationship on the one hand, and China’s votes in favour of sanctions against North Korea on the other, examining the background to this and its importance.
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Chapter 6: Security and development in transboundary water management between North Korea and China in the Yalu River Basin

Seungho Lee


Water management, particularly when water resources flow across national boundaries, represents both a security and a development challenge for the states involved. China and North Korea share two transboundary rivers: the Yalu and the Tumen Rivers. This study aims to evaluate the relationship between North Korea and China over water resources management in the Yalu River. Primary attention is paid to hydropower development since the 1950s. The fundamental elements of transboundary water relationships between North Korea and China have been enshrined in their common political ideology as well as security aspects, and the outcomes of their interactions relating to water have also been developmental. A series of bilateral agreements over the river basin has culminated in co-building and jointly operating four dams along the river. Two more dams are under construction, which signifies the extent to which the two countries are collaborating together in respect to hydropower generation and flood control. The case of joint hydropower development therefore reveals a number of things about the relationship between these two ‘brothers’. First, transboundary water issues in this river basin are not only tied to water resources management, especially hydropower generation, but are also tied to the peculiar power asymmetry between the countries in politics and economy. Second, China uses development approaches to enhance security on the peninsula. Third, development and security in relation to water serves not only the interests of the North Korean population but also the vital development and security needs of China.

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