South Korea, Japan want Silk Road on their doorstep

By Xinhua

Lanzhou (China) : Experts from the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan believe the new Silk Road, linking China with Europe, can be extended further eastward to their countries.

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The issue was raised at the 2007 International Symposium on Regional Economic Cooperation along the New Silk Road held in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China's Gansu Province, as the route shows huge potential in promoting economic growth along the region.

The 8000-km Silk Road or Silk Route was a series of interconnected trade routes in ancient times that linked Changan (modern Xian) in China with Asia Minor and the Mediterranean.

The new Eurasian Continental Bridge is also called the new Silk Road as it is similar to the 2,100-year-old old Silk Road in terms of its route. The 10,900-km Continental Bridge links eastern China's ports of Lianyungang and Rizhao with Amsterdam of Holland and Antwerp of Belgium.

Kwaak Yong Hoon, chairman of the Korean KWAAK HwangKyung Group, said he hoped the road and its tremendous business opportunities could be extended to his country. He said Park Geun-hye, one of the candidates for ROK's presidential election this year, had promised to build a train-ferry link to connect ROK with the Chinese ports of Yantai, Qingdao and Rizhao.

"If she manages to be elected president, then the new Silk Road could be expanded to my country in three or four years," he said.

Mitsuo Honda, a professor of economics at the Japan-based Nihon University, has a more ambitious dream. He hopes the huge industrial belt along the road could extend to Japan and the ROK when it came into being.

Both Japan and the ROK could then benefit from the economic integration of the area spanning from Europe to the two countries, he added.

Yugun Riku, an associate professor of the same university, acknowledged there were many factors holding back the formation of the huge economic belt. They included the lack of integrated planning and industrial fragmentation against the backdrop of economic globalisation in the regions along the corridor, as well as its relatively high transportation costs.

The symposium, sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), China's Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Information, and the Gansu Provincial Government, has attracted more than 500 delegates from 12 counties and regions along the new Silk Road. It focuses on the development of modern logistics in the region as well as the construction of cooperation networks for the cities along the route in China.

The two-day symposium, along with the Silk Road Mayors Forum and Entrepreneurs Summit, aims to expand the influence of the continental bridge and then to revive the new Silk Road, according to Khalid Malik, UN Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in China.