Beijing disallows visits to North via its border

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Beijing disallows visits to North via its border

BEIJING - China temporarily blocked tourists from traveling to North Korea through its northeastern borders since Wednesday due to safety concerns about Pyongyang’s imminent missile launch.

Different sources stated that local authorities in the northwestern city Dandong in Liaoning Province Tuesday halted tourists from traveling across the border to North Korea. Tourism was also halted from neighboring city Yanji in Jilin Province.

Multiple travel agencies said yesterday that tourist groups into North Korea had been suspended temporarily, for an unknown period.

An official at the Dandong Border Office told the AFP Wednesday that “Travel agencies are not allowed to take tourist groups to go [to North Korea], since the North Korean government is now asking foreign people to leave, but that there had been no restrictions on commercial travel.”

An employee of Dandong China International Travel Service told Reuters that it canceled its tour groups heading to North Korea Wednesday after they “received the notification, so they’ve all gone back home.”

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs also confirmed Wednesday that Chinese travel agents and tourists have canceled or postponed travel plans to North Korea though officials stated that it was the travel agencies’ choice to do so. Commercial travel between the borders continued. Analysts state that the halt of Chinese tourism in North Korea, an important source of foreign currency, can have an adverse impact on Pyongyang. The Chinese customs administration stated that exports to North Korea fell 13.8 percent in the first quarter of the year to $720 million while imports went up 2.5 percent to $590 million.

As the international community shows a united front against North Korea for its provocations, China’s state-run paper conveyed explicit words of censure against its long-time ally North Korea Wednesday, warning Pyongyang not to “miscalculate” the situation.

Hua Yiwen, international affairs expert, wrote in the front-page column in the official People’s Daily overseas edition Wednesday, “Even if there are 100 reasons for North Korea to strengthen its military armament, there is no reason to break the UN Security Council resolution and conduct a nuclear test or fire a ballistic missile” warning Pyongyang “not to the miscalculate the situation.” He added, “North Korea cannot continuously put the responsibility of the tension in the Korean Peninsula on the South.”

Zhang Liangui, a North Korea expert, told the state-run Global Times, the English sister paper to People’s Daily, that he foresees a 70-80 percent likelihood of “war breaking out on the Korean Peninsula.”

The international studies professor at the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Party School stated he believed that North Korea’s aim is reunification with the South by armed force.

He added that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “has not experienced war” himself so he believes his nation is a “military super power” and that the irrational attitude of the group leaders in Pyongyang made the situation “fairly dangerous.”

By Choi Hyung-kyu, Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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