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China Girds N. Korea Border

September 16, 2003|From Times Wire Services

BEIJING — China has moved troops into new positions along its 870-mile frontier with North Korea and ordered them to take over border patrol duties from military police.

The move follows reports of rising crime in the region by North Korean soldiers and some of the thousands of North Korean refugees who sneak into China every year.

China's Foreign Ministry said Monday that the army took charge of defending the border early this month, but it offered no details.

Some Hong Kong newspapers said the action involved a buildup of 150,000 soldiers.

Though China and North Korea are allies, some analysts believe that Beijing's move is designed to pressure its isolated communist neighbor to end its nuclear weapons program.

"The Chinese traditionally move troops to the borders to send signals to others," said David Shambaugh, director of the China Policy Program at George Washington University. "This looks like a signal to North Korea, and it could be a signal to the Americans, too."

Shambaugh said China might be preparing for a mass influx of refugees if North Korea collapses or the United States launches an attack.

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