China to send troops to N Korea: Report*
Sat Jan 15, 2011
China and North Korea are reportedly discussing details of a plan allowing Chinese army forces to be deployed in the communist country for the first time in about two decades.
Citing an anonymous official at the presidential Blue House, the South Korean Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported on Saturday that the troops “would protect Chinese port facilities” in the Rason special economic zone near the Sea of Japan (East Sea).
"North Korea and China have discussed the issue of stationing a small number of Chinese troops to protect China-invested port facilities," the unnamed official told the newspaper.
"The presence of Chinese troops is apparently to guard facilities and protect Chinese nationals," the official added.
In 2008, Beijing was reportedly allowed to use a pier at Rason to secure its access to the Sea of Japan.
The Chinese troops, supervising a truce between the two Koreas after the 1950-53 Korean War, withdrew from the North in 1994.
Some officials believe the presence of troops will allow China to intervene in case of any instability in North Korea.
"The worst scenario China wants to avoid is a possibly chaotic situation in its northeastern provinces, which might be created by massive inflows of North Korean refugees," Seoul's International Security Ambassador Nam Joo-Hong was quoted as saying.
"Its troops stationed in Rason would facilitate China's intervention in case of contingencies in the North," he added.
The development comes amid strained relations between Seoul and Pyongyang caused by the exchange of deadly artillery fire on a border island in late November.
The United States and South Korea also recently staged a series of joint military maneuvers, which the North condemned as provocative and warned they could push the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war.