Chinese authorities expand 5G technology on border with North Korea

Dandong, China (right) and Sinuiju, North Korea (left) as seen from the Amnok River
Dandong, China (right) and Sinuiju, North Korea (left) as seen from the Amnok River. Image: Daily NK

Dandong is the latest city in China to receive a 5G-equipped checkpoint aimed at cracking down on smuggling and defections along the Sino-North Korea border, regional sources report.

Last month Chinese media reported that the country’s authorities planned to establish the country’s first 5G checkpoint in Tonghua, Jilin Province, but there have been no public reports of such checkpoints being built near Dandong, Liaoning Province.

Observers says that Chinese authorities may be using 5G checkpoints in the border region to curtail widespread cases of smuggling and defections.

“Chinese smugglers were arrested near Dandong’s Hushan Great Wall and Donggang in mid-April. Chinese smugglers who operate in the area, which was thought to be safer from crackdowns, are now being arrested thanks to the 5G network used by the authorities,” a source in China close to North Korean affairs told Daily NK.

“The previous 4G network took a long time to recognize people’s faces and analyze the images, and there were many cases where the smugglers got away before the authorities showed up […] However, the authorities are using a 5G network now and the smugglers have less time to escape.”

5G mobile networks allow for download speeds of up to 20 Gbps, which is 20 times faster than 4G (LTE) networks, and can handle 100 times more data.

Border patrol units are known to employ virtual reality fluoroscopes, drones, and 4K-quality real-time video to monitor the border region in a significantly more hi-tech and comprehensive manner than before.

“The 5G network has forced smugglers into hiding because they can’t do business anymore,” a separate source in China told Daily NK, adding that the development is particularly distressing for many in Dandong who make a living smuggling with North Korea.

According to KOTRA, the Chinese government is implementing policies to develop its 5G networks through the State Council’s 13th Five-Year Plan for Energy Technology Innovation and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology’s Information and Communication Industry Development Plan (2016-2020), and is focusing significant efforts on constructing 5G networks across the country.

China is running trial 5G networks in 16 areas of the country, including Shanghai and Beijing. Dandong, however, is not one of the areas for which trial runs have been announced.

There is a possibility that Chinese authorities have given military units, including those in the border region, priority access to 5G technology to use for security purposes.

There has been a significant increase in crackdowns by the Chinese government on smuggling in the border region. Asia Press, a North Korea news outlet based in Japan, reported on April 23 that Chinese authorities are cracking down more severely on smugglers and have implemented strong customs controls.

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