North Korea is known for its extreme steps to prevent citizens from leaving the country. Amid flood, Coronavirus pandemic and food shortage, the Kim Jong Un-administered nation is now deploying special forces at the North Korea-China border to stop people from crossing the border.
As per reports, the elite force soldiers have been divided into four groups near the Yalu river borders with China. Hence, even if someone dares to cross the border, the individual will have to go through four layers of guards, a military source was quoted by Radio Free Asia. Further, the source told that border security had been quadrupled since August 5 in Ryanggang Province.
Four Layers of Security
The security cover is divided into "four-point combat positions" of 100 meters each with 25th border guard brigade patrolling the first line and special forces defending the second between 7 AM and 8 PM. After 8 PM, border guards take charge of the first two lines and special forces defend the third and fourth lines till the Yalu river.
Residents in the area have also been asked not to step out of their houses after 8 PM after the special forces arrived on August 4. That has created a tense atmosphere in the region. Only people with a special permit are allowed to cross the border for national affairs, the source told the RFA.
Border Guards under Surveillance
The movement restriction has not only made it difficult for residents but also for border guards. With salaries not adequate to live on, they are prone to corrupt practices. In exchange for money or food, guards at times overlook illegal border crossing. Now, special forces also keep a watch on them to enforce strict control measures and prevent such incidents from happening.
"It has become difficult for border guards to work in collusion with escape brokers, who help refugees flee to China, in exchange for bribes, or overlook the movement of residents to receive money and food," one source said, adding that this is the first time such a strict measure has been taken.
It is believed that the rules have been enforced to tighten quarantine measures amid Coronavirus pandemic. While North Korea hasn't officially declared any positive cases so far, the increased attention could point towards a growing number of cases in the secretive country.
North Korea-China Clash
The order, although, came after Kim Jong Un's meeting with politburo members, it should be noted that border security has been tightened after an altercation between North Korea and China. In July end, several Chinese boats up to 30-meter-long rammed into a North Korea patrol boat at Yalu River delta near Sinuiju. The incident, Express reported, left seven North Korean sailors missing and presumed dead.
As per sources, the incident occurred due to a financial dispute between the two sides. After the Supreme Leader's order, North Korean patrol boats had heightened security in the region to crack down on smuggling and restricted Chinese vessels entering into its waters.
The source said the North Korean patrolling boat, part of the country's 52nd Fleet, demanded an increased "fee" (bribe) to let Chinese vessels enter the waters and that led to a disagreement. "Fed up with the unreasonable demands from the North Koreans, the Chinese ships joined forces and rammed the patrol boat," the source added.
This could be one reason why there is heightened security in Sino-Korean border areas and nearby towns. However, both sides have been silent and haven't acknowledged the incident. North Korea heavily relies on China for food supplies and other raw materials. It is one of the few trading partners in the world amid crippling UN economic sanctions.