by WorldTribune Staff, December 13, 2017
China, fearing unwelcome migrants fleeing the increasingly intense situation in North Korea, plans to construct five refugee camps near the border, according to a leaked report.
Over one million North Korean residents could swarm into China if armed conflict breaks out on the Korean Peninsula, analysts have estimated.
Plans for the camps along China’s 880-mile border with North Korea were reported this week after an internal document was leaked from the China Mobile telecommunications company. The document was seen by the Financial Times.
Three villages in Changbai County and two cities in Jilin province are considered likely spots for the camps, the document said. All five sites are across the Tumen river from North Korea.
The document indicated the camps were being planned “because the situation on the China-North Korea border has intensified.”
“Due to cross-border tensions … the [Communist] party committee and government of Changbai county has proposed setting up five refugee camps in the county,” the document read.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told reporters on Dec. 11 that he was not aware of the report. But he did not deny its existence.
Analysts say the refugee camps would mark a major shift in China’s policy towards North Korean defectors, who they have previously said are recognized solely as illegal economic migrants and if apprehended are sent back to North Korea to face almost certain imprisonment or death.
“Those North Koreans have illegally crossed the border due to financial hardship in their homeland. They did not go through normal immigration procedures and also disrupted public order in our border regions,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman was quoted as saying by the Korea Times in 2015.
China conducted extensive military drills near its border with North Korea last month, although a foreign ministry spokesperson later claimed the drills were not “aimed at any country.”