North Korea’s border with China has remained closed since Sunday in a tightened security move during the visit of national leader Kim Jong Un to Beijing for meetings with China’s President Xi Jinping, North Korean sources say.
The border, usually open to small businessmen and trade not restricted by international sanctions against Pyongyang, is now under the watch of state security officers brought in specially from the capital, a source in Sinuiju city in North Pyongan province told RFA’s Korean Service on Wednesday.
“Security agents from the province and the regular border guards are no longer on the front line,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Instead, the border is being completely controlled by state security agents, who are restricting the movements of residents in the area,” the source said.
In a move reflecting heightened security concerns, officers have also been cracking down on the use of mobile phones to make calls, often overlooked by local authorities, across the border, the source said.
“Residents who have been making illegal phone calls that local security agents had not been paying much attention to have been raided by state security agents, and their phones have been confiscated,” he said.
Peddlers and other North Koreans living along the border have been severely inconvenienced by the newly tightened controls, RFA’s source said, adding, “They have greatly resented these restrictions without realizing that this is all because of Kim Jong Un’s secret trip to China.”
“Later, they heard the news about the trip, and were more understanding of the situation,” he said.
Residents on the border now hope that Kim’s March 25 trip might help ease the pressure from China’s support of international sanctions punishing Pyongyang for its illicit nuclear weapons program and missile tests, he said.
Also speaking to RFA, a source in North Korea’s North Hamgyong province, lying along the border with China, said on Wednesday that the border remained closed.
“Small-scale trade and peddling in the border areas have all stopped, and residents are anxiously hoping that restrictions will be lifted.”
“However, many also hope that Kim Jong Un’s visit to China will mean that international sanctions against North Korea can also be relaxed,” he said.
Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Richard Finney.