According to reports, Chinese soldiers have been sent to the border with North Korea to prevent trespassers entering Chinese territory.
Troops from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) have been sent to the northeastern Jilin province to increase the military presence along the border with North Korea. Stations along the border have generally been manned by border guards until this time, writes Elizabeth Shim for UPI.
Troop movements reported by anonymous source
The report cites a source close to the developments, who told Radio Free Asia that troops were being sent to the usually quiet, agricultural area. According to South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, the new arrangements appear to be permanent. The source spoke on condition of anonymity.
Beijing has recently been constructing a series of new installations along the border in response to a growing number of attacks on Chinese nationals in settlements along the Tumen River.
A short while ago, PLA soldiers shot and killed a man who entered China illegally from North Korea. Back in April this year, three Chinese citizens were killed by North Korean soldiers in the town of Helong, China. Four ethnic Korean-Chinese were also killed by North Korean forces in December 2014, according to China.
Officials in Beijing rarely talk about North Korean migrants who enter China for work. However South Korean newspaper Asia Business cites the source as saying that the presence of the PLA in the border zone could signify a desire to fortify the area against the sudden arrival of a wave of refugees from North Korea.
Potential North Korean defectors discouraged from entering China
PLA soldiers “are everywhere” in the borderlands, said the source. China currently has soldiers stationed facing the North Korean cities of Musan and Hoeryong, which are situated in the border province of Onsong.
An increasing number of crimes are being committed in Chinese territory by North Korean citizens, a phenomenon which irritates officials in Beijing. The increased military presence should go some way to improving the security situation in Chinese border towns, which are an attractive target for North Koreans struggling to survive in their isolated country.
The chances of successfully crossing the Tumen River into China would appear to be better than attempting to enter South Korea via the heavily militarized DMZ, but recent developments should discourage any potential migrants. The shooting of the illegal immigrant in China and the fact that Beijing is sending soldiers to the region should act as a warning sign to those North Koreans planning an escape.
No end in sight for North Korea tensions
Despite the fact that there are many North Koreans living quietly in north-eastern China, Beijing has a long track record of sending immigrants back to North Korea. China has been criticized for sending defectors back, where they face torture, prison time or death for their attempted defection.
Successful escapees may go on to enjoy a better life than they previously had in North Korea, but the full might of Pyongyang’s dictatorship is sure to come down on their family and friends. Authorities are thought to harass and pressurize associates of the defectors even if they had no idea about the planned escape.
China sending troops to its border with North Korea may discourage immigrants from crossing the Tumen River, but it does nothing to address the reasons for which they want to leave. Beijing could improve the situation along its border by clarifying its complicated relationship with Pyongyang, and attempting to end the tension between North Korea and the outside world.