Wednesday, 19 November, 2008
Tensions grow along North Korean border with China
The land border between the two countries was closed at the beginning of last month,
immediately after the Mass Games celebration of North Korea’s 60th anniversary.Chinese tourists trying to visit North Korea have had to fly direct to Pyongyang from Beijing or Shenyang, and no tourists have been permitted from the three provinces neighbouring North Korea in case they are exiled former citizens.
There are now reports that all transport links between China and North Korea will be cut on
December 10 as the rogue state becomes even more secretive. On Wednesday, North Korea announced it would close its border with South Korea on December 1.
China’s relations with North Korea have long been characterised as being “as close as lips and
teeth” after they fought side-by-side during the 1950-53 Korean War. However, China has been
building a fence along the border since 2006, when North Korea tested a nuclear device.In
addition, US officials told the Financial Times that the Chinese military has boosted troop
numbers along the border amid concerns about the health of Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader.
The United States and Japan are drawing up contingency plans in the event of Kim’s demise, but Beijing has refused to discuss the scenario.Kim is believed to have suffered a stroke and was operated on by Chinese doctors in August.
Critics have questioned the veracity of photographs of Kim that have been released since, saying
they appear to be doctored.
Sources in Dandong were unable to confirm if troop numbers had risen recently, but said there had been an increase two years ago and that at least 150,000 People’s Liberation Army troops are at the border.
Meanwhile, South Korea said it was disappointed by North Korea’s decision to close the border and said the country was trying to escalate the situation in order to improve its bargaining
“If we consider North Korea’s clear negotiation pattern, its strategy has always been to create a
crisis before resolving something, and trying to use that point to secure further concessions,”
said Yu Myung-hwan, the foreign minister.