China 'sends troop contingent' into North Korea

A CONTINGENT of Chinese troops has reportedly been stationed for a month in the economic zone of Rajin-Sonbong in northeast North Korea.

South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported a South Korean official as saying the People’s Liberation Army force had been deployed “to guard port facilities China has invested in”.

But China’s Global Times quoted a defence official as dismissing the report. “China will not send a single soldier to other countries without the approval of the UN,” he said.

Troops would be stationed overseas “for peacekeeping missions and disaster rescue efforts approved by the UN”.

China, which has for a century lacked direct access to the Sea of Japan, began last month using the Rajin-Sonbong port to ship resources from its northeast provinces to Shanghai.

China and North Korea have agreed to build more piers at the port as well as a highway and a rail track from Quanhe in China’s Jilin province, according to the website Daily NK.

Chinese troops, who fought alongside the North Koreans against the Western-backed South Koreans in the 1950-53 war on the peninsula, withdrew from the country in 1994 when China left the Military Armistice Commission that supervises the truce that ended the conflict.

“A China-based source familiar with North Korean affairs” was quoted as saying: “In the middle of the night around December 15, about 50 Chinese armoured vehicles and tanks crossed the Tumen River from Sanhe in China into the North Korean city of Hoeryong . . . The Chinese armoured vehicles could be used to suppress public disturbances, and jeeps to round up defectors from the North.”

Chosun Ilbo said witnesses saw military jeeps driving from the Chinese border city of Dandong towards Sinuiju in North Korea at the same time.

South Korea’s international security envoy, Nam Joo-hong, said: “What China is most worried about in case of a sudden change in the North is a mass influx of defectors, which would throw the three northeastern Chinese provinces into confusion.” With troops in Rajin-Sonbong, “China could intervene by sending a large number of troops into the North under the pretext of protecting its residents.”

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