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China, North Korea to open border trade zone: media

[BEIJING] China and North Korea will open a border trade zone, Chinese state media said on Monday, the latest effort to boost economic ties despite tension between the countries.

The Guomenwan trade zone in the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong, in Liaoning province, is expected to open in October, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing city trade officials who said the plan had been approved.

"Residents living within 20 kilometres of the border will be able to exchange commodities" with people from North Korea on a duty-free basis, of up to 8,000 yuan a day, Xinhua said.

North Korea's isolated and small economy has few links with the outside world apart from China, which has been an ally for decades and remains the North's main trading partner and sole influential diplomatic ally.

But ties have been strained by North Korea's banned nuclear programme, which has triggered UN sanctions on the North.

As relations between China and North Korea have become strained in recent years, China has grown closer to South Korea, Asia's fourth largest economy and the North's main rival.