Long-term allies China and North Korea have signed an agreement to set up a rail route between the two countries to encourage tourism, the latest sign of lively cross-border trade between the two neighbours.

The line will run between Tumen City in China’s Jilin province and North Hamgyong province in North Korea, Chinese state media reported yesterday. The route will be operated by two travel agencies, one from China and the other from North Korea. Both sides plan to hold an inauguration ceremony for the route’s trial operations later this month.

The agreement to introduce a tourism railway between the isolated Stalinist enclave and China comes just weeks after widespread calls for a toughening of UN sanctions against North Korea, after Pyongyang launched a long-range rocket in a move widely seen as a test for a long-range missile.