US embassy cable - 08SHENYANG116

PRC-DPRK BORDER DEFENSE, BORDER-CROSSERS, NORTH KOREAN DRUGS, TRAFFICKING

Identifier: 08SHENYANG116
Wikileaks: View 08SHENYANG116 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Consulate Shenyang
Created: 2008-08-20 05:20:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PREL PINR PGOV PREF ASEC KTIP SNAR KN CH
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXRO4465
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHSH #0116/01 2330520
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 200520Z AUG 08
FM AMCONSUL SHENYANG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8480
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC 0130
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC 0096
RHHJJAA/JICPAC PEARL HARBOR HI 0057
RUCGEVC/JOINT STAFF WASHDC 0066
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC 0115
RHMFISS/SECNAV WASHINGTON DC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0559
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 SHENYANG 000116 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/CM, EAP/K, PRM 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: TEN YEARS AFTER KOREAN UNIFICATION 
TAGS: PREL, PINR, PGOV, PREF, ASEC, KTIP, SNAR, KN, CH 
SUBJECT: PRC-DPRK BORDER DEFENSE, BORDER-CROSSERS, NORTH 
KOREAN DRUGS, TRAFFICKING 
 
REF: 07 SHENYANG 196 
 
Classified By: CONSUL GENERAL STEPHEN B. WICKMAN. 
REASONS: 1.4(b)/(d). 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY: The PRC has made some progress in PRC-DPRK 
border security in recent years, but advances ought not be 
overestimated, say northeast China experts.  Although new 
investment, infrastructural improvements and modern 
technologies have enhanced defense capacity, the border 
remains porous and patrols insufficient.  Experts dismiss 
the role of "civil militias" in border defense. 
Jurisdictional issues complicate dealing with, and 
repatriating, North Korean border-crossers; some scholars 
have internally advocated jurisdictional adjustments. 
North Korean narcotics trafficked into China have hit 
borderland Jilin Province hard.  Officials there have 
protested to the DPRK but characterize Pyongyang as 
"looking the other way" at drug cultivation within its 
borders.  Jilin's studies of a Chinese drug-control 
initiative along the PRC-Vietnam border suggest that model 
is unviable for the PRC-DPRK border because of Pyongyang's 
uncooperative attitude.  Results are unclear from an 
ongoing anti-drug campaign in the Jilin borderlands also 
linked to countering cross-border human smuggling.  Recent 
media reports have described PRC arrests for the apparent 
smuggling and--in one case--trafficking of North Koreans. 
END SUMMARY. 
 
2. (C) Poloff recently met in Shenyang, Changchun and 
Yanbian with northeastern Chinese experts on PRC-DPRK 
border issues.  Topics discussed during these unofficial 
meetings include border defense, North Korean border- 
crossers, and the trafficking of North Korean narcotics 
into northeast China. 
 
BORDER DEFENSE: PROGRESS, PROBLEMS, FUNDING, MODALITIES 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
3. (C) Experts pointed to limited improvements in securing 
the PRC-DPRK border in recent years but cautioned against 
overestimating progress.  WU Jianhua (PROTECT), a 
government specialist on North Korea and PRC-DPRK border 
issues at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences (LASS), 
is among the more cynical.  Wu argued July 16 that despite 
some progress in PRC-DPRK border-defense efforts, 
improvements have been minor, sometimes cosmetic and often 
"exaggerated" by the "South Korean media and others." 
Patrols, for instance, are insufficient, with too many 
still conducted on foot, he said.  Use of new technologies 
by PRC border forces is limited, despite the installation 
of cameras and detection devices in certain areas. 
Cosmetic improvements, such as adding a token local police 
station ("paichusuo"), are often disingenuously publicized 
by the PRC as progress in making border residents safer, Wu 
also claimed. 
 
4. (C) Wu did cite one major advance in PRC border 
security: the development of infrastructure along the 
border, particularly in the rougher terrain of borderland 
Jilin Province.  He noted, for instance, that security 
forces--he did not specify either the People's Liberation 
Army (PLA) or People's Armed Police (PAP)--have funded new 
road construction in border areas.  This has allowed an 
increase in vehicular patrols, particularly in more remote 
areas that have challenging terrains.  New funding has also 
made available more patrol vehicles, as well as modern 
electronics and surveillance gear.  Ultimately, however, Wu 
argued that much more remains to be done.  LU Chao 
(PROTECT), another expert on North Korea and border issues 
also at based at LASS, shared a similar assessment June 26. 
He stressed that the length and porosity of the border 
makes meaningful deterrence of criminal elements or border- 
crossers difficult. 
 
5. (C) Although these experts agreed that PRC investment in 
border security has increased, they declined to offer 
supporting data.  Recent PRC press reports, however, shed 
some partial light on the issue.  Jilin Province's Yanbian 
Korean Autonomous Prefecture, for instance, invested RMB 10 
million (USD 1.5 million) "in the past year alone to 
 
SHENYANG 00000116  002 OF 004 
 
 
support border-defense construction," according to a March 
28 article in the Qianjin Bao, published by the Shenyang 
Military Region.  The Jilin Daily reported June 24 that 
Jilin Province recently invested over RMB five million (USD 
735,000) in 38 border villages--comprising four thousand 
families--to install alarms and remote sensors to alert 
against intruders.  The province invested an additional RMB 
10 million (USD 1.45 million) to create eleven "special 
duty" units, according to the same report, which did not 
contain details of past funding levels or missions for 
these units.  Also unclear is to what extent Olympics- 
related considerations may have influenced these 
expenditures. 
 
6. (SBU) Northeastern Chinese press reporting also offers 
some detail, however limited, on how funds are being 
allocated.  A March 28 profile of the Yanbian Military 
Subdistrict in Qianjin Bao pointed to efforts to boost 
intelligence gathering, improve command-and-control 
capabilities and enhance border forces' integration with 
other security partners.  It also highlighted increased 
manpower and the growing use of new surveillance and 
communications technologies to stem North Korean border- 
crossings.  On the latter, for instance, the article 
mentioned adding "duty posts" during the "high season for 
border-crossings."  Some 800 North Koreans were stopped 
from crossing into the Yanbian Subdistrict in 2007, 
according to the report. 
 
7. (SBU) Press reports have hailed the role of civil 
militias ("minbing") at the grassroots in bringing 
"stability" to the PRC-DPRK border.  These militias, 
sometimes referred to as "village-protection teams," are 
typically comprised of border residents organized to defend 
against intruders.  A January 2008 Qianjin Bao article 
profiled their impact in Yanbian's Helong City, describing 
their role in patrolling the border and integration with 
conventional border-defense forces.  The report also noted 
their contribution to the transformation of the city, which 
it claimed only "several years earlier" had been a 
"disaster area" where "illegal border-crossers and criminal 
activities" were "rampant" (changjue). 
 
8. (C) Experts like Wu Jianhua offered a negative appraisal 
of the militias' role in border defense, dismissing them as 
ineffectual, although some, such as Professor ZHOU Weiping 
(PROTECT) of the Jilin Academy of Social Sciences, a 
leading specialist on the DPRK and border issues, offered 
more nuance.  Zhou explained in Changchun on July 23 that 
the militias are typically organized by reservists at the 
local level, some of whom may receive a token subsidy from 
the People's Armed Forces Department (Wuzhuang Bu). 
Training and organization tends to be poor, she said, 
limiting their utility. 
 
9. (C) More useful at the grassroots level, Zhou claimed, 
has been the "lianfang system" (ref A).  A bottom-up 
initiative that started in Yanbian in the 2004-2005 period, 
"lianfang" involves an alarm system linking households in a 
given border locality with their local police station. 
Upon entry of an intruder, residents can sound the alarm, 
tipping off villagers and local police.  Zhou explained 
that the system is found in localities close to the border, 
within the first line of defense ("diyi xian").  Interviews 
she conducted along the border in Yanbian indicated that 
residents--mainly concerned about possibly violent thieves 
from across the border--consider the initiative a success, 
one reason she says that its use has spread.  Zhou 
acknowledged, however, that the lianfang system's benefits 
are mostly psychological; residents perceive themselves to 
be safer from intruders than in the past.  (Note: It 
remains unclear whether the practice has spread to border 
villages beyond Yanbian, particularly south in Liaoning 
Province, near Dandong. End note.) 
 
HANDLING DPRK BORDER-CROSSERS: JURISDICTIONAL ISSUES 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
10. (C) Although one apparent focus of border-security 
efforts remains deterring and apprehending North Korean 
border-crossers, LASS researcher Wu Jianhua asserted that 
 
SHENYANG 00000116  003 OF 004 
 
 
certain jurisdictional issues complicate the efforts.  Wu 
claimed that the PLA has the authority to detain crossers, 
but no power to handle ("chuli quan") their cases further. 
That power falls to the PAP Border Defense Corps, whose 
authority supersedes that of local Public Security Bureau 
(PSB) officials at the local "paichusuo" level, he said. 
When a PLA patrol captures a border-crosser, detainees must 
be remanded to Border Defense, claimed Wu.  Border Defense 
then notifies the Foreign Affairs Office and Public 
Security counterparts, who in turn contact the North Korean 
side to arrange for repatriation.  Detainees, meanwhile, 
are "investigated" pending repatriation; the process 
typically takes under fifteen days, claimed Wu.  The 
process is an administrative "hassle," which is why 
repatriation tends to take place in groups, he said. 
 
11. (C) Wu reported that he and other scholars have argued 
internally that the PLA should also be accorded the "power 
to handle" cases in order to streamline an inefficient 
arrangement.  He added that organizational tensions become 
more complicated on water--particularly near Dandong, which 
abuts the Yalu River and Yellow Sea--because additional 
actors are involved. 
 
NORTH KOREAN NARCOTICS AND PRC BORDER SECURITY 
--------------------------------------------- - 
 
12. (C) North Korean narcotics trafficked into northeast 
China pose another challenge for PRC border security.  A 
Yanbian official having decades of North Korea experience, 
both on cross-border political and economic issues, 
described Jilin Province as the province hardest hit by 
North Korean drugs.  Without specifying a timeframe, he 
told Poloff in Yanji July 21 that the DPRK has displaced 
Russia, which for years had proven the larger source for 
narcotics entering Jilin, especially Yanbian.  Liaoning 
Province has fared better than Jilin: the more mountainous 
North Korean terrain across the border from Yanbian/Jilin 
is better suited for growing certain drug crops, noted the 
official.  Narcotic trafficking is commonly transnational, 
involving North Koreans, ethnic Koreans and Han Chinese, as 
well as third-country nationals (e.g., South Korea, Japan, 
Russia).  He claimed that Yanbian officials believe most 
drug-trafficking networks operating along the border are 
involved purely in drugs (as opposed to more elaborate 
ventures involving human smuggling). 
 
13. (C) He went on to say that Jilin officials have 
protested to their North Korean counterparts over the 
years, demanding that the DPRK take action to stem the 
problem.  The North Korean reply: the problem stems from 
individual farmers beyond the state's control, recalled the 
official.  Our source claimed drug cultivation and 
production in North Korea at present is not state-directed. 
But he characterized North Korea as "looking the other 
way"; while the North Korean may not itself be directing 
production of the narcotics entering China, it is aware of 
the activity taking place and chooses not to clamp down. 
He added that North Korean officials themselves have, on 
occasion, been involved in trafficking narcotics into 
China.  He recalled one case "several years ago" in which 
at least one PRC-based North Korean diplomat was found to 
have collaborated with ethnic Korean Chinese to smuggle 
drugs into China.  The PRC sentenced the ethnic Koreans to 
death, while diplomatic immunity permitted the North Korean 
diplomat(s) to return home. 
 
14. (C) Queried on Jilin Province's efforts to address the 
trafficking of North Korean drugs into China, the official 
explained that the strategy continues to center on 
intelligence and interdiction.  Asked whether Jilin 
officials have explored alternative strategies, the 
official replied that they have studied the "successful" 
crop-substitution and law-enforcement efforts in recent 
years along the PRC-Vietnam border.  There, he explained, 
the Chinese side has paid Vietnamese farmers to plant 
alternative crops, provided farming inputs and guaranteed 
to purchase set amounts from farmers in a bid to deter a 
reversion to cultivation.  (Funding for the program has 
come from provincial coffers, with contributions from 
Beijing, he said.)  Our contact, who was once himself 
 
SHENYANG 00000116  004 OF 004 
 
 
dispatched to the Vietnam border to study the program, said 
the officials there adjudged these programs to be 
effective.  Such success notwithstanding, he said Jilin 
officials assess that a similar program is not viable along 
the PRC-DPRK border because, unlike the Vietnamese, the 
North Korean side has not displayed a willingness to 
address the problem. 
 
"CATCH SNAKEHEADS, BLOCK SOURCES": DRUGS, HUMAN SMUGGLING 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
 
15. (SBU) Local and national PRC press reports for the past 
few months have referred to the "serious drug situation" in 
borderland Jilin Province.  In the lead-up to the Olympics, 
moreover, the Jilin Border Defense Corps linked its "Spring 
Thunder" anti-drug campaign with an initiative to combat 
what a June 17 Xinhua report described as "organized human 
smuggling" in the border region involving individuals from 
"outside the border."  One campaign slogan urged border- 
defense forces to "catch snakeheads, block sources, unearth 
channels and smash shelters."  A stping of progress reports 
on seizures in local media have made clear, at times less 
obliquely than usual, that North Korea remains the source 
country for trafficked narcotics.  (Note: "Spring Thunder" 
is an annual campaign, but the Olympics endowed it with 
increased intensity this year, said our Yanji-based contact 
on July 21. End note.) 
 
16. (C) Results of the campaign are unclear.  Since 2005, 
the Jilin Border Defense Corps has cracked 96 "major" drug 
and alien-smuggling cases, arresting over 800 suspects and 
seizing roughly 30 kilograms of methamphetamines, according 
to "incomplete statistics" cited in a June 24 Jilin Daily 
report.  In the first six months of this year, the Jilin 
Border Defense Corps netted 15 alien smugglers and 54 
smuggled individuals; police also seized over 10 kilograms 
of methamphetamines and 62 suspects, according to a June 17 
Xinhua report.  Our Yanbian-based contact assessed that 
these are a small fraction of North Korean drugs being 
trafficked across the PRC-DPRK border. 
 
17. (SBU) Media reports in past months have described PRC 
arrests for the apparent smuggling and--in one case-- 
trafficking of North Koreans.  In Shenyang in early June, 
for instance, the Jilin Border Defense Corps and Liaoning 
police together arrested one person attempting to "smuggle" 
19 individuals out of China via southern Yunnan Province. 
Another two individuals, along with an additional 
organizer, were caught in Changchun, capital of Jilin 
Province, according to the June 5 Xinhua article that 
disclosed the two related cases.  The article did not offer 
the nationalities of the smuggled individuals, but the 
reported route out of China and the involvement of the 
Jilin Border Defense Corps in the case strongly suggests 
that the 21 were North Koreans attempting to transit China. 
 
18. (SBU) By contrast, human trafficking appears to have 
been at play in an early April case, according to an April 
27 online report by the Yanji PSB.  Yanji police, according 
to the report, busted a "criminal" ring of at least six 
individuals allegedly involved in "selling" (fanmai) and 
"trafficking" (guaimai) two "foreign women from outside 
China's territory."  The outside-China's-territory 
formulation is a common euphemism used to indicate North 
Korean nationality.  Also notable in the report is the use 
of both "fanmai" and "guaimai" to distinguish human 
trafficking from voluntary human smuggling (i.e., "toudu"). 
SWICKMAN 

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