Sources here in South Korea say a recent bilateral joint development deal has been concluded between Pyeongyang and Beijing for North Korea's northeastern port of Rason and the island of Hwanggumpyong.
According to the plan, Rason will be developed as a center for manufacturing and logistics, while also providing China with access to the East Sea.
Hwanggumpyong Island on the Yalu River, separating the two countries, will be a knowledge-based free trade zone to link North Korea to the Chinese border city of Dandong, where massive state-led economic development is currently underway.
And at the end of May, a groundbreaking ceremony is set to take place for construction on a road connecting Dandong to Hwanggumpyong.
China also recently extended its lease over Hwanggumpyong from 50 years to 100, along with another river island named Wihwa.
With the upgraded lease, North Korea should be able to experience gradual economic reforms led by China in the region, and China should gain even more leverage on its reclusive neighbor.
Experts say that Pyeongyang's growing economic dependence on Beijing is due mainly to strained relations and lack of trade between the two Koreas following North Korea's attack on the South Korean warship Cheonan in May of last year as well as international sanctions.
In 2010, trade volume between Pyeongyang and Beijing increased by 32 percent compared to the year before, while inter-Korean trade rose by only around 14 percent during the same time.
And it is expected that the conclusion of this joint development deal will only deepen North Korea's reliance on China, which should also boost China's influence in Northeast Asia while leaving Seoul's role in North Korea's future development in serious question.
Park Ji-won, Arirang News.