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N 40° 05′ 51′′, E 124° 22′ 44′′
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Two bridges crossing the Yalu River near Dandong–Sinuiju, with Yalu River Broken Bridge in the foreground. Originally built by the Japanese in 1911 and 1943, both bridges were destroyed by American troops during the Korean War (1950–1953). Second Yalu River Bridge was rebuilt in 1955 and renamed Sino–Korean Friendship Bridge, whereas First Yalu River Bridge was never rebuilt. Renamed Yalu River Broken Bridge, the remaining four spans over the Chinese side of the river were converted to a viewing platform.

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A 2017 photograph showing the unfinished New Yalu River Road Bridge ending abruptly in a field in North Korea’s Sinuiju. Construction of the bridge began in 2010 but remained unfinished six years after the originally planned opening in 2014. Nicknamed the “bridge to nowhere,” the predicament is the combined result of North Korea’s failure to comply with contractual obligations, UN sanctions that China promised to uphold after North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, and recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

1876: After the Manchus took over China and founded the Qing dynasty in 1644, the border area between Qing China and Chosen Korea was deliberately depopulated for nearly 200 years until the second half of the 19th century. Antung (now Dandong), meaning “pacifying the east,” was established.


1903: Japan and the United States were sufficiently concerned and took action as Russia consolidated its position in Manchuria in the early 20th century. In October, China signed separate treaties with Japan and the United States to extend commercial relations. Antung was established as a port city according to the Sino–American treaty but was prevented from opening owing to the Russo–Japanese War of 1904–1905.


1904: During the Russo–Japanese War, Japan built a 300-km railway line from Antung to Mukden (now Shenyang), the center of Manchuria’s roadways and railway lines. The Mukden–Antung Line (now Shenyang–Dandong Railway) was joined to the South Manchuria Railway network after the war.


1907: Antung was opened as a port city, and a customs station was established.


1911: First Yalu River Bridge, which was a steel railway bridge built across the river connecting Antung and Sinuiju, was completed, and the Antung–Mukden Line was connected to the Shintetsu–Gyeongui Line in Korea at Sinuiju.


1920: Timber was one of the main sources of Antung’s rapid growth, as the hinterlands along the flanks of Yalu River were rich in forests. By the early 1920s, enabled by modern Japanese machinery, Antung became one of the largest timber ports in the world. Antung also became the second largest trade port in Manchuria.


1943: Construction of Second Yalu River Bridge began in 1937. The bridge was completed and opened in 1943, and the first railway bridge was reappropriated as a roadway bridge.


1950: The two cross-river bridges were blown up by the US military during the Korean War (1950–1953) to prevent the flow of Chinese and Soviet supplies to North Korea.


1955: Only Second Yalu River Bridge was rebuilt after the war and renamed Sino–Korean Friendship Bridge. The international freight services of the Beijing–Pyongyang and Pyongyang–Moscow Lines passing through Antung Railway Station began operations.


1966: Antung City was renamed Dandong City in 1965. China–North Korea relations deteriorated during China’s Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), and Dandong Port was closed in 1966.


1981: Following the launch of China’s Reform and Opening Up, cross-border trade between China and North Korea resumed, and Dandong Port was reopened in 1981.


1992: The Dandong Border Economic Cooperation Zone was established.


2006: First Yalu River Bridge, which was destroyed during the Korean War, was not rebuilt. The bridge was renamed Yalu River Broken Bridge, and the remaining four spans over the Chinese side of the river were converted to a viewing platform. The bridge was designated as a historical monument under China’s national-level protection.


2009: The upgraded Dandong Railway Station was opened. China’s Premier Wen Jiabao signed an economic cooperation agreement with Kim Jong Il, with New Yalu River Road Bridge as an important part of the cooperation package.


2013: Construction of New Yalu River Bridge began in 2010, and the main body was joined in 2013. Originally planned to open in 2014, the opening was postponed owing to delays from the North Korean side.


2017: Cross-border trade volume fell as the port city was hit by UN sanctions imposed on North Korea over missile testing in August 2017.

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