(NationalSentinel) Conflict: Is that “as close as lips and teeth” relationship between North Korea and its only major ally, China, turning sour? Reports Friday suggest that may be the case.
The United States, Russia and China all appear to be moving military assets to the border of North Korea and the waters off the Korean peninsula, albeit for different reasons. Last week, we reported that Russia was moving armor, helicopters and troops to the Vladivostok region, near its 11-mile border with North Korea. Footage posted online showed Russian artillery, combat helicopters and other armored vehicles being deployed en mass, by ground and by rail.
China, meanwhile, reportedly has been moving troops and equipment to its NK border along the Yalu River as well, and now, as UPI noted that Beijing was also deploying fighter jets to border regions as well, to take part in “drills” along the border:
China continues to conduct training exercises near the Korean peninsula, according to state media.
Chinese state news service People’s Daily Online reported Thursday the Nanchang Q-5, a Chinese-built ground-attack aircraft, practiced hitting simulated targets in Bohai Bay.
In addition, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy has deployed its newest destroyer, the Xining, the first of its class, to the Yellow Sea, where the PLAN’s only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is conducting “drills” as well. UPI noted further:
A source in Beijing who spoke anonymously to Yonhap said the drill may have been publicized as a warning to North Korea and to the United States and South Korea, as tensions mount on the peninsula and the USS Carl Vinsonstrike carrier group plans to arrive in the region next week.
Analysts have said the the most likely reasons why Moscow and Beijing are deploying forces is because should the U.S. launch any strikes against North Korean nuclear, chemical and conventional weapons targets, it could trigger a mass exodus of North Korean refugees, something neither country wants.
Also, the deployments are seen as prudent and pragmatic, given the circumstances. Not only do they give each a capability to deal with any refugee crisis, but having troops in the area also sends the message to the United States that getting to close to their respective borders is not something either would tolerate.
Meanwhile, additional reports noted that China has imposed additional sanctions on Pyongyang, in an attempt to convince leader Kim Jong-un to discontinue his nuclear program and end missile tests and other provocations. Sanctions include cutting off North Korean coal imports and Chinese exports of oil and gas to its resource starved neighbor.
The sanctions have reportedly provoked an angry response from Pyongyang. As reported by South Korea’s largest news agency, Yonghap:
North Korea has apparently asked China not to step up anti-North sanctions, warning of “catastrophic consequences” in their bilateral relations.
Pyongyang issued the warning through commentary written by a person named Jong Phil on its official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), which was released Saturday.
It’s rare for Pyongyang’s media to level criticism at Beijing, though the KCNA didn’t directly mention China in the commentary titled “Are you good at dancing to the tune of others” and dated Friday.
The commentary instead called the nation at issue “a country around the DPRK,” using North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“If the country keeps applying economic sanctions on the DPRK while dancing to the tune of someone after misjudging the will of the DPRK, it may be applauded by the enemies of the DPRK, but it should get itself ready to face the catastrophic consequences in the relations with the DPRK,” said the commentary.
But how valid are the sanctions, really? CNN reported Friday that six coal-carrying North Korean cargo ships were spotted at a port in northern China, despite the alleged ban on North Korean coal imports:
The ships docked Thursday and Friday at a port in the city of Tangshan in northern Hebei province, near Beijing.
All six North Korean ships were loaded with anthracite coal, according to a daily docking plan published on the port of Jintang’s website. Unloading times of up to six hours were listed for the ships.
CNN reported further that it was not clear what the ships actually off-loaded, though reasonable deductions can be made given the circumstances.
It is not surprising that there would be some ‘relaxation’ of the ban.
North Korea and China experts have expressed skepticism that Beijing would completely cut off its belligerent neighbor for the same reason it abhors the notion of military action by the U.S.: An implosion of the Kim dynasty and regime, which would trigger a refugee crisis and put a U.S.-aligned government on its border, something China isn’t likely to tolerate anymore than the U.S. would tolerate a China- or Russia-aligned country on its border.
President Donald J. Trump is aware that China is key to solving the crisis on the peninsula. “China is very much the economic lifeline to North Korea so, while nothing is easy, if they want to solve the North Korean problem, they will,” Trump said in a Twitter message.
Meantime, Yonghap noted in a separate report that Vice President Mike Pence, finishing his Asian tour in Japan and Australia, said the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier battle group would be in the East Sea near the Korean peninsula “within days.”