Mon, Sep 15, 2003 - Page 5 News List

China deploys troops on border with North Korea

AFP , HONG KONG

China has deployed up to 150,000 troops on its border with North Korea to deter Pyongyang's nuclear build-up and to stifle mounting violence from rogue North Korean soldiers, a report here said yesterday.

Hong Kong's Sunday Morning Post cited an unidentified security source in China as saying five divisions of Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops had been deployed in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, bordering North Korea, since last month.

Large troop movements and new military barracks have also been seen in the border towns of Hanchun, Tumen, Kaishan, Sanhe and Baijing, while air force jets have frequently been seen flying over the capital Yanji, some 40km from the border, the report said.

The source said troops were also in the area to help stem the flow of North Korean refugees fleeing to China to escape a long famine and recession in the hermitic state.

China's foreign ministry last week refused to confirm or deny the deployment of PLA troops to the area.

"I have not heard any information on the deployment of troops along the border with the DPRK (North Korea) by China as you mentioned," ministry spokesman Kong Quan told a routine briefing Tuesday.

Hong Kong's Chinese-language Sing Tao Daily has earlier reported that three PLA units -- each with 50,000 troops and including armored divisions -- had been deployed along China's 1,400km border with North Korea.

The paper quoted a Chinese foreign ministry source as saying that the move had been aimed at deterring North Korea from continuing its nuclear build-up and to pressure Pyongyang into holding talks on the nuclear crisis with the US.

Top negotiators from the US, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia met in Beijing in late August to discuss the 11-month crisis over Pyongyang's suspected nuclear weapons programs. The meeting made little headway, but more talks are expected.

The Sunday Morning Post said that while the mobilization of PLA troops was seen as a strategic move, residents of Yanbian prefecture also believed they were there to halt a growing number of violent crimes allegedly carried out by North Korean soldiers.

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