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Yong-ho in Vietnam for lessons on economic reform

North Korea's foreign minister kicked off an official visit to Vietnam Friday

Dec 03


North Korea's foreign minister kicked off an official visit to Vietnam Friday (Nov 30) as the nation seeks to learn lessons from the one-party state's post-war economic reform that has transformed the communist nation into one of Asia's fastest growing economies.

Ri Yong Ho is expected to meet with leaders in Hanoi and visit a hi-tech zone and speak to agricultural experts, according to state media and diplomatic sources.

North Korea, with an economy long crippled by wide-ranging sanctions and years of self-imposed isolation, is seeking to learn from Vietnam's "doi moi" economic reforms introduced in the 1980s, according to Seoul's official Yonhap News Agency.

Vietnam's economy has flourished as it has embraced market reforms, opened its doors to foreign investment and embraced free trade deals, with GDP growth hitting five percent or higher for the past decade.

Ri has visited Iran, Russia, China, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan this year. It is an approach encouraged by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who on a trip to Vietnam in July remarked on the "once-unimaginable prosperity and partnership" between former war foes Hanoi and Washington.

"Your country can replicate this path. It's yours if you'll seize the moment. The miracle could be yours; it can be your miracle in North Korea as well," he said in comments aimed at Kim Jong-Un.

A diplomatic source in Hanoi said that Ri is scheduled to visit a technology park near the city and meet with experts from the Vietnam Academy of Agricultural Science. He will also meet with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, according to his official schedule.

The visit could be a sign that Pyongyang is looking to expand from its reliance on China - its largest trading partner and one of its closest allies.

Vietnam and North Korea established diplomatic relations in 1950, though there has been little in the way of trade following UN sanctions passed last year aimed at cutting off Pyongyang's revenue streams. Hanoi's exports to Pyongyang reached US$7.3 million, mainly of food products, according to official data.