>– North Korean Soldiers Cross Frozen Yalu River to Pursue Refugees, Kill Five, Wound Two; Kim Jong-un Issues Shoot-to-Kill Orders
On January 17, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that about four weeks ago troops of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) arrived in North Korea’s special economic zone of Rajin-Sonbong. This is the first time since December 1994, when the People’s Republic of China (PRC) withdrew from the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission in the truce village of Panmunjom, that Beijing has stationed forces in the North. How many PLA troops are in North Korea is unknown.
“The move is unusual,” remarks the South Korean news source, “since North Korea is constantly calling for U.S. forces to pull out of South Korea and stressing its ‘juche’ or self-reliance doctrine.”
A source based in Red China who is familiar with North Korean affairs related: “In the middle of the night around Dec. 15 last year, about 50 Chinese armored vehicles and tanks crossed the Duman (Tumen) River from Sanhe into the North Korean city of Hoeryong in North Hamgyong Province.” This incursion would have taken place about three weeks after communist troops shelled South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, killing two marines and two civilians.
Residents of Hoeryong, which is only about 50 kilometers from Rajin-Sonbong, woke up to the roar of armored vehicles. Other witnesses asserted that they saw military jeeps moving from the Chinese city of Dandong in the direction of Sinuiju in the North at around the same time. “The Chinese armored vehicles could be used to suppress public disturbances and the jeeps to round up on defectors from the North,” the source mentioned above speculated.
“Pyongyang and Beijing have reportedly discussed the matter of stationing a small number of Chinese troops in the Rajin-Sonbong region to guard port facilities China has invested in,” explained an official at Cheong Wa Dae, the official residence of the South Korean president. “If it’s true, they’re apparently there to protect either facilities or Chinese residents rather than for political or military reasons.”
Nam Joo-hong, South Korea’s ambassador for international security, predicted: “What China is most worried about in case of a sudden change in the North is mass influx of defectors, which would throw the three northeastern Chinese provinces into confusion. With its military presence in Rajin-Sonbong, there is a likelihood that China could intervene in Korean affairs by sending a large number of troops into the North under the pretext of protecting its residents there in an emergency.”
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Red China have “engaged in lively military exchanges” since two visits to the PRC by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in 2010. Guo Boxiong, vice chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission, reciprocated by visiting the North last October. At the time, Guo met with leader Kim Jong-il and his son and heir Jong-un. In the meeting, the elder Kim emphasized “blood ties” between the two communist states.
It is known that the PRC established a commercial mission in Rajin-Sonbong last month and that, furthermore, Red China is transporting natural resources from its northeastern region to the south via the Port of Rajin-Sonbong, which was recently renovated. According to the Xinhua news agency, Red China first used the port on December 7, when it transported 20,000 tons of coal from a mine in Hunchun, Jilin Province to southern parts, including Shanghai. There is speculation that China will supply its own electricity to Rajin-Sonbong beginning in April 2011.
Quoting a North Korean source, the online newspaper Daily NK stated that in December the North and Red China signed an investment pact that will lead to the building of three more piers at the port, and a highway and railroad between Quanhe in Jilin Province and Rajin-Sonbong.
Witnesses in the port city have observed that “the number of Chinese people arriving in the special zone has grown as a result of the North’s quest for investment.” Another North Korean source confirmed: “The North Korean State Security has more or less stopped checking Chinese people. The North has apparently concluded that it is unavoidable to accept the Chinese military presence on its land to woo Chinese investment, even if it’s not happy about it.”
Beijing denies that it has sent troops into North Korea, or has plans to do so. “China will not send a single soldier to other countries without the approval of the UN,” stated an anonymous official at the Chinese Ministry of Defense in an interview with China’s Global Times daily.
Meanwhile, South Korea continues to monitor war preparations in the North, including the expansion of Pyongyang’s already substantial special forces units, as well as the deployment of a new battle tank, called the Storm, and the creation of the new tank brigades. North Korean commandos total 200,000, outnumbering by 10 times their Southern counterparts, who are pictured above.
Last month, according to the South Korean defense ministry, some North Korean troops stationed along the Demilitarized Zone were observed wearing a camouflage uniform similar to that worn by South Koreans, apparently to practise intrusion drills. This development prompted the South to expedite the supply of new uniforms for its own troops to avoid confusion. “It’s been confirmed some North Korean frontline troops are wearing uniforms with woodland camouflage pattern which is similar to those of South Korean uniforms,” a South Korean official stated.
About one week ago, North Korean soldiers crossed the frozen Yalu River in order to pursue seven refugees into Red China, before shooting five escapees dead and wounding two others. Then, with the permission of PRC authorities, they dragged the living and the dead back to North Korea. It has been reported that Kim Jong-il’s son and heir apparent, Kim Jong-un, has ordered soldiers to shoot anyone who tries to flee the country. He has denounced refugees as traitors.
Communist troops from the PRC and the DPRK, with air support from Soviet fighter pilots, first overran the Korean Peninsula 60 years ago, until they were pushed back by United Nations forces under the command of US General Douglas MacArthur. North Korea is itself a creation of occupying Soviet forces at the end of the Second World War.