Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chinese Troops Watching Rasun Ramp Up

According to this Chosun Ilbo report, North Korea has decided to allow the Chinese military to station an unknown number of troops within Rasun Special City, the long-standing but hitherto unsuccessful development area in the far northeast of the country.

Quoting a source inside President Lee's office, thus lending the information a degree of credibility that my slating of the Saturday Chosun Ilbo supplement not a great deal further down this very page would otherwise have suggested didn't exist, believes that just such a move has been on the cards for a while.

"We know that North Korea and China discussed the problem of stationing a few Chinese troops in Rasun for the purpose of guarding Chinese investments in port facilities," the source apparently said, adding, "If China did indeed send troops, it was to guard facilities and Chinese people from the political and military perspective."

Chosun then goes on to cite a Chinese source as saying, "One night on around December 15th, 2010, more than 50 Chinese armored cars and tanks left Sanhezhen across the Tumen River to Hoiryeong," apparently waking up the metaphorical neighbors. Hoiryeong is just 50km from Rasun, it points out.

Moving on, an international security expert who clearly suspects a grander Chinese motivation and whose political leanings I suspect, and thus feel compelled to admit I don't know, comments, "China fears rapid change in North Korea the most because a large number of defections would thrust China's northeast into a state of confusion," before speculating, "Taking the opportunity presented by stationing troops in Rasun, China will be able to inject military force and intervene in any problem on the Korean Peninsula and protect Chinese citizens."

Elsewhere, in a less easily corroborated quote from 'a source', the piece adds, "North Korea will have judged that although they don't want Chinese troops to be stationed in the country, if they are to obtain Chinese capital, it is inevitable," and adds, somewhat irrelevantly, "North Korean National Security Agency controls over the Chinese have all but disappeared."

Personally, I'm not surprised by this. Yes, if true it certainly violates North Korean sovereignty, but I would imagine that the primary reason is to guard against thievery of raw materials, a problem which is seemingly so endemic that Beijing would have been mad not to have made some kind of preparations for it.

Equally interestingly, the move fits into a pattern of recent news which would tend to suggest that efforts to develop the Chinese northeast and North Korea are gathering speed.

By way of evidence, there is this Daily NK report which notes that the authorities there are selecting the first of the lucky few who are to be sent to Rasun to work in construction, while this one shows the first steps in building a new and jolly flashy $145 million bridge across the Yalu River down at Dandong (map and picture, story in Chinese, h/t Adam, flashy bridge image better represented here), this one suggests that a Chinese group wants to pump $2 billion into Rasun, while this one reports that North Korea even has the self-confidence/chutzpah needed to launch both a "10-Year State Strategy Plan for Economic Development", the first such all-embracing plan since the Third Seven-Year Plan drifted into insignificance in 1993, and a "State General Bureau for Economic Development" to implement it.

Interesting moves.


  1. Ditto, Kushibo, I also enjoyed this piece. The note about thievery of materials is definitely new and significant. At the same time, if materials are being pilfered from Rajin/Sonbong, where the North Korean regime has already presumably weeded out the undesirables and is striving to create or maintain a semblance of order, you know things are really bad.

    Been enjoying your work of late, Chris; the Myers review (hopefully part of an ongoing series, there is so much to parse!) and the Chosun Ilbo essays in particular.