North Korea is pressing to ink a deal with China to prevent double taxation, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper said Wednesday, signaling an apparent bid to attract investment from its key ally and the world's No. 2 economy.
The isolated country has already signed similar accords with Egypt and 11 other countries and negotiations are under way with other countries, the Chosun Sinbo reported, citing a North Korean official handling the issue of attracting foreign investment.
However, the newspaper, widely seen as the mouthpiece of the communist regime in Pyongyang, did not give any further details.
The development comes as the North is struggling to overcome years of economic difficulties amid tightened U.N. sanctions over its two nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.
The North has repeatedly called for efforts to build a prosperous and powerful nation by next year, the centennial of the birth of the country's late founder Kim Il-sung, the father of current leader Kim Jong-il.
Still, Pyongyang has made a series of appeals for food assistance from the international community, a sign that the North's goal is likely to remain elusive.
Earlier this month, North Korea and China broke ground on their border island and the North's Rason special economic zone to jointly develop the two areas.
The trade volume between North Korea and China stood at $3.46 billion in 2010, up from $2.68 billion in 2009, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.
The North designated Rason as a special economic zone in 1991 and has since strived to develop it into a regional transportation hub near China and Russia, but no major progress has been made.
The North hopes to transform Rason into a regional hub of transit trade like Singapore, and it should expand economic relations with outside world to improve its faltering economy, the newspaper said, citing the North Korean official.
North Korea and China are also likely to complete the repairs of a key logistics road that links the Chinese city of Hunchun to the Rajin port inside the Rason economic zone by October, two months earlier than previously planned, according to sources in Hunchun.
Beijing has secured the right to use the port, which provides China with an export route to other countries.
In May, the North Korean leader traveled across China to study the economic development that lifted millions of Chinese out of poverty and helped Beijing become the world's second-largest economy. (Yonhap News)