NK Foreign Minister to visit Vietnam this week: reports


With North Korea’s foreign minister reportedly scheduled to visit Vietnam later this week, with reports saying his intention is to learn more about the Southeast Asian country’s model of economic reform.

Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho will embark on a trip to Vietnam from Thursday to Sunday, a Vietnamese news agency reported Monday, citing Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry. The ministry added that Ri was to visit Vietnam at the invitation of Pham Binh Minh, Vietnam’s foreign minister and deputy prime minister. 

North Korea`s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho (Yonhap)

Ri’s Vietnam trip comes at a time when Pyongyang could be exploring economic reform options, including the Vietnamese model of development, or “Doi Moi.” According to Yonhap News Agency, Ri told the Vietnamese government he wanted to learn about the country’s experience with economic development, according to the report.

North Korea has long considered Doi Moi as a viable model for its own economic reform, as Vietnam managed to maintain its socialist identity when it adopted an open market economy and attracted foreign capital through the plan initiated in 1986.

Though Vietnam’s economic model is an important subject of study for the North, a Seoul-based expert said that Ri’s latest trip may involve inspection of different part of Vietnam’s economy.

“Vietnam is a role model for North Korea in the sense that it was engaged in an actual war with the US, then signed a peace treaty and proceeded to normalize relations with the US — it’s a country that shows combination of economic development alongside improvement of ties with the US,” Hong Min, research fellow at the Korean Institute for National Unification.

“But Doi Moi has been already active for some time, so Ri is likely to focus on industrial zones in Vietnam and learn about luring foreign investments,” he added.

North Korea is known to have established more 20 special economic zones over recent decades but has been struggling to attract the interests of foreign investors.

Hong also saw it as the North’s move to further strengthen relations with countries that share its values as socialist nations amid its diplomatic isolation, in line with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s latest state visit to Pyongyang earlier this month.

Regarding the concept of Doi Moi, experts are divided whether the model is apt for North Korea, amid stalled denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang. Skeptics claim that with layers of sanctions still intact and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s remarks that denuclearizing North Korea will be a “lengthy process,” it is unlikely that North Korea will be able to make noteworthy progress regarding economic reform.

The reform and opening up to the outside world could also bring political instability, as it could come with ideas about democracy, they say.

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)

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