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Tuesday, 18 November, 2008 Summary: This product provides a summary of recent reporting in open sources on the closure of the border between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC, China).

Please direct your questions and comments to MAJ Steve Sin, Chief, USFK J2 OSINT: DSN – (315) 725-5045, Commercial – +82-2-7915-5045, or Email – CIOCCAOSINT@us.army.mil

Information contained in this document is entirely derived from unclassified, open source, information. This product is based exclusively on the content and behavior of selected media and has not been coordinated with other US Government components. This report may contain copyrighted material. Copying and dissemination is prohibited without permission of the copyright owners.

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UNCLASSIFIED USFK J2 Korea Open Source Report

Summary: Numerous recent open source reporting stated that the PRC may be in the process of quietly preparing itself to cope with a crisis situation on their border with NK. Reports include the PRC military build ups in the region, local authorities implementing contingency plans, stoppage of Chinese visitors into the DPRK, and rigorous ID checks of North Korean-Chinese or NK nationals in China traveling to NK by train. The PRC and the US governments have both denied any knowledge of these reports. In response to questions on these topics; PRC President Hu Jin Tao replied “I have not heard of any unusual circumstances on the China-DPRK border.” When asked about the reports of closing the border, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "I haven't heard of any abnormal circumstances on the border between China and North Korea." Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman of the US Department of State stated, “I hadn’t heard that…I need to take a look at the reports and follow up on them before I can give you any comment” during a daily press briefing when asked about the validity of the reports on Chinese troop movements. The governments of NK and the ROK have remained silent on these topics.

Border Closing: Several news sources have reported that sometime in Oct, NK began restricting overland border traffic with the PRC. A representative of a travel agency in Dandong, China, said, "Since mid-October, it has been possible for Chinese tourists to travel to North Korea only by air from Beijing and Shenyang in Liaoning Province." A Chinese railroad official in Dandong said freight trains were still able to cross into North Korea. The travel agent added, “ID checks have also become more rigorous for North Korean-Chinese or NK nationals in China traveling to NK by train” and "It's unprecedented that NK is now allowing only air travel from Dandong even though the annual quota for Dandong has not been used up yet." There are reports that travel by train from Hunchun City, Jilin Province, on the eastern border has also been suspended, but this maybe due to the annual allocation of travelers set by North Korea having been met for this area. The customs office in Dandong, the biggest trade channel for NK, was closed from 20 Dec last year until early Jan, but it will close on 10 Dec this year. Chinese tourists' air UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED USFK J2 Korea Open Source Report

travel to NK, too, will likely be suspended from at that time as well. NK experts in China speculate that the measures might be related to Kim Jong-il's worsening health or an internal change in NK. They said, however, "We haven't heard anything from the NK authorities as to why this is happening." Park Young-ho of the ROK’s Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU) said, “By restricting the flow of Chinese visitors, NK seems to be trying to have a firmer grip on its internal situation, especially with Kim Jong-il’s suspected health problems receiving global attention.” When asked about the reports of closing the border and a PRC military buildup in the area, PRC President Hu Jin Tao replied to both issues with, “I have not heard of any unusual circumstances on the China-DPRK border.” Similarly, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said, "I haven't heard of any abnormal circumstances on the border between China and North Korea." Troop Buildup: The Financial Times reported that according to US officials, the Chinese military has boosted troop numbers along the border with North Korea since Sep amid mounting concerns about the health of Kim Jong-il. One official cautioned that the increase in Chinese troops was not “dramatic”, but he said China was also constructing more fences and installations at key border outposts. Additional reporting included the unnamed US officials stating that the Chinese Army was increasing troop numbers in apparent preparation for a possible influx of refugees due to instability, or regime collapse, in North Korea In response, the Chinese embassy spokesman in Washington said he was unaware of any increased deployments. Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman of the US Department of State stated, “I hadn’t heard that…I need to take a look at the reports and follow up on them before I can give you any comment” during the daily press briefing on 13 Nov when asked about the validity of these reports. Preparations: According to a document posted on the PRC official website portal of the Yanbian Korean Nationality Autonomous Prefecture People's Government in Jilin UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED USFK J2 Korea Open Source Report

Province near the NK border, “the emergency management in the border region should be concentrated on beefing up intelligence and information collection, controlling illegal immigrants from the DPRK and security management, and strengthening the ability to manage and control the situation, thereby raising the level of emergency management in the border region.” The document highlighted that “information collection should be focused on the `three possibilities’ – NK’s wavering determination on denuclearization, occurrence of unexpected incidents in particular areas, or a massive influx of NK personnel.”

USFK J2 OSINT ASSESSMENT: Given the absence of verifiable data and corroborating information, it is difficult to assess the validity of reporting on these subjects; however, if these reports are accurate, it indicates the PRC is concerned about the possibility of a sudden flow of refugees from NK. Most likely, this sudden influx would be a result of internal instability or regime collapse in NK brought on by a power vacuum or struggle in the wake of Kim Jong-il, due sickness or death, not being physically able to continue to control the country. While there is reporting that suggests Kim Jong-il has recently suffered a stroke, possibly two, there is no open source reporting that the NK government is experiencing stability issues. The PRC is probably taking precautionary steps in light of rumors of Kim Jong-il’s illness and the eventuality that the NK’s leader will one day no longer be in power and NK may fall into an unstable situation or even collapse.

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