China Troops Increase at North Korean Border

Financial Times (FT)reported on the 13th that “amid mounting concerns about the health of Kim Jong Il” which began last September, China began building more fences in addition to moderately increasing its number of troops along the border.

Quoting U.S. officials, FT stated that China was fortifying its troops along the border in preparation for a possible influx of refugees that could attempt to cross in the event of a regime change or increased instability. It also pointed out that this comes at a time when international efforts to convince Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program have run into obstacles.

One U.S. official mentioned that while the troop increase would not be dramatic, China was building more “fences and installations at Key boarder outposts”, FT reported.

The newspaper added that while U.S. officials believe Kim Jong Il is still in control, they are concerned about how long the leader can maintain that control given his current health condition.

In July the Wall Street Journal reported that the Chinese government denied a U.S. recommendation to discuss an emergency plan to prepare for any possible political shifts in the event of Kim Jong Il’s death.

WSJ further stated that U.S. officials were interested in knowing China’s position concerning North Korean leadership transition but China refused to talk saying that even discussion of such matters is enough to aggravate officials in Pyongyang.

Chinese military diplomats said that planning for a “post Kim Jong Il North” makes North Korean leaders nervous and expressed concern that such discussions could incite suspicion that forces outside North Korea are creating hostile plots against the North.

The issue of nuclear sampling is the most recent snag. On Wednesday North Korea stated its intentions to deny international inspectors from taking samples, claiming that it would be an infringement on their sovereignty. FT also reported that the North claims to have “slowed down the disablement of its nuclear reactor.”

The sampling problem according to one senior U.S. official was reported by FT to say that while resumed Six Party Talks have come against difficulties in the inspection process, “the issue is not sampling, the issue is how to express it in a document that doesn’t involve their loss of face.”
The complication has prevented Six party member states from formalizing the verification mechanism via the creation of a Six Party document—an act which North Korea has been resisting, according to one U.S. official.

“The more serious problems going on in the Six Party Talks have nothing to do with [sampling] but rather the continued bad North/South relations and the lack of a diplomatic process with the Japanese,” the official added “Probably, there are also leadership problems in North Korea that are having an impact on decision making there.”