According to Chinese and North Korean accounts, the People’s Liberation Army is rapidly moving its personnel to the border region with North Korea in what appears to be preparations for war. The Daily Star reported that PLA leaders have also conducted “war ceremonies” to get their troops in to the proper mindset. Details on this “war ceremony” remain elusive.
Reports from locals along the border claim that Chinese military personnel have been building up under the cover of darkness in the region of Jilin, the same province where official newspapers told residents how to prepare for nuclear war in late 2016. Locals have noted overnight influxes of tanks, trucks and personnel with forces concentrated near the city of Yanji along the Tumen River. The Tumen serves as one of the two natural boundaries separating North Korea from China.
In early December 2016, the NY Times also reported through leaked PRC internal documents that China built refugee camps throughout provinces in Jilin Province. These camps were likely constructed in anticipation of the flow of refugees that may stream over the narrow Tumen River if things on the peninsula do heat up beyond the current “button pushing” rhetoric.
Chinese policy has long since been to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula to prevent the economic crisis that millions of fleeing, half-starved and largely ignorant to the modern world, North Koreans would cause. Despite significant economic growth in China for several decades, income disparity is higher than any other place in the world and growth has slowed tremendously. The CCP’s hold on power is largely dependent on maintaining, if nothing else, the fantasy of an economically growing China. A North Korean refugee crisis would plunge that fantasy in to a very dark reality.
There are intense arguments going on in Washington about the potential danger imposed by the war of words ongoing between Trump and Kim. How much Trump’s aggressive tweets affect Kim’s ultimate decisions is unknown but it does seem to be spurring Chinese contingency planning not seen during previous tensions. President’s Trump tweets Thursday morning would also imply that his assertions on the North Korea situation are responsible for bringing the ROK and the DPRK back to the table. “With all of the failed ‘experts’ weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. He added, “Fools, but talks are a good thing!”
What will happen on the peninsula is unknown, but this ratcheting up of tensions may have less to do with the current U.S. administration’s tone and more to do with the state of the DPRK’s missile capabilities. It is an emboldening thing for an erratic and despotic leader such as Kim to finally be able to do with his button what he claims he can. All eyes will be on the next ICBM test Pyongyang has scheduled for later this month to see just how far those capabilities are continuing to progress.
Featured image courtesy of AP