China has ramped up security along its border with North Korea, installing new surveillance cameras, deploying extra security forces and operating radiation detectors as it braces for a potential crisis.
Bellicose rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang has raised fears in China of a conflict that could send millions of North Korean refugees across the 1,420-kilometre (880-mile) border, and of nuclear fallout that could hit Chinese towns.
Residents have seen an increase in patrols along the frontier. Radiation monitors are running in border towns, and locals say interactions with North Koreans have been discouraged. A red banner tacked to a border fence in Dandong — a major trading hub separated from North Korea by the Yalu River — has a Cold War-like message to residents: “Citizens or organizations who see spying activities must immediately report them to national security organs.”
On the opposite bank, North Korean soldiers peered out from turquoise watchtowers and at least one warplane surveilled the territory from above. Relations between China and North Korea have deteriorated as Beijing has backed a series of UN sanctions to punish its secretive ally over its repeated missile and nuclear tests.
Further north in Longjing, where the Tumen River freezes over in the winter, villages have established border protection units and cadres have taught self-defense to residents. The local propaganda department said last year that hundreds of cameras were being installed to build a “second generation border surveillance system.”
At the Dandong border crossing, authorities last week checked to make sure their nuclear radiation monitoring and protection equipment was working properly. “If the monitoring stations show any abnormalities, we will immediately alert citizens,” said Guo Qiuju, a professor at Peking University.