[Photos] Regional tensions palpable on Sino-North Korea border

Unification Media Group  |  2017-05-01 17:54
Unification Media Group's special investigation team recently found themselves at a guard post near the road between the southern part of Tumen City, Jilin Province (China) and Namyang Workers' District, Onsong County, North Hamgyong Province, where Chinese soldiers with walkie-talkies and rifles ordered them and other passersby to get out of their vehicles.

The atmosphere reflects the political tension on the Korean Peninsula with the USS submarine Michigan entering the port of Busan and hints of North Korean preparations for a sixth nuclear test. This level of border control has never before been witnessed. The media team was covering news on North Korea's human rights issues in Dandong, Liaoning Province near Sinuiju, North Pyongan Province and the areas of Yanji, Jilin Province, where many North Korean defectors are reportedly hiding.

Unification Media Group's (UMG) team was not expecting to be stopped at a checkpoint. When the soldiers abruptly started checking their passports and mobile phones, surprise quickly gave way to fear.

The inspection was thorough. Although rumors had spread that Chinese public security officers and the military were inspecting every device with scrutiny, to be experiencing an inspection in real life was chilling. Fortunately, all relevant files on the UMG teams devices were deleted only 10 minutes before the inspection.

The Chinese soldiers collected the mobile phones of the reporting team and the local guide to thoroughly search for photos of North Korea. The soldiers even used the cameras themselves to check whether any suspicious content was present.

The Chinese soldiers ordered the team to get back in the vehicle after the extended inspection of baggage and devices revealed nothing. If something suspicious had been found during the first inspection at the guard post, the UMG team would likely have been handed over to the office of public security or the closest police station in the vicinity. Considering the fact that the soldiers took photos of everyone's passport but did not run a background check on the Chinese local guide, the incident suggests that China is strengthening its border security with a particular emphasis on foreigners.

The local guide for UMG said, "This region was originally under frequent inspections, but this is the first time that soldiers have checked inside the vehicles and tenaciously asked questions to verify identities. It was a vivid first-hand experience of the strengthened border control, reflecting the tense international political situation."

The situation was similar at Quanhe Customs in Hunchun City, Jilin Province, which is connected to North Korea by the Tumen River bridge. The soldiers were on alert as soon as the UMG team approached the main entrance. The team was repeatedly instructed to turn off their cameras, and managed to later hold a conversation with their hired driver with some difficulty, although the driver kept telling the team that he is new to the region and did not know anything about it.

Media reports of rising anti-South Korea sentiment in China due to the installation of THAAD coupled with unconfirmed claims by Chinas state-owned Global Times that the Chinese army has amassed 150,000 troops on the border with North Korea underscore the tense political situation in the region, and strengthened border inspections are likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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