Of troops and tourism

Troops: the Financial Times reports that the PRC (China) is increasing the number troops along its border with North Korea:

The Chinese military has boosted troop numbers along the border with North Korea since September amid mounting concerns about the health of Kim Jong-il, the North Korean leader, according to US officials.

Beijing has declined to discuss contingency plans with Washington, but the US officials said the Peoples’ Liberation Army has stationed more soldiers on the border to prepare for any possible influx of refugees due to instability, or regime change, in North Korea.

One official cautioned that the increase in Chinese troops was not “dramatic”, but he said China was also constructing more fences and installations at key border outposts. Wang Baodong, the Chinese embassy spokesman in Washington, said he was unaware of any increased deployments.

Tourism: Reuters reports that the DPRK has closed Sinuiju to entering Chinese tourists:

North Korea is restricting visitors from its ally and giant neighbour China, travel agents said on Thursday, including virtually closing off one of its main border crossings at Dandong.

Travel agents in China, who send a steady though small flow of tourists to impoverished and isolated North Korea, said they were still organising visits, though trips had to be made via air rather than by rail.

“The border has been closed since October. If you want to go to North Korea, you have to go to Shenyang and fly from there to North Korea,” said one travel agent in Dandong, referring to a northeastern Chinese city.

A Chinese rail official in Dandong said freight trains were still able to cross over into North Korea.

“There are four trains a week to North Korea. One train just left for there, though I don’t know if there are any passengers on it. I think most of the trains are freight trains,” the official said by telephone.

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.

Read the full articles here:
China increases troops on North Korea border
Financial Times 
Demetri Sevastopulo and and Song Jung-a

North Korea restricts travel for Chinese visitors
Ben Blanchard


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