The photo shows rights activists performing the roles of Chinese police and North Korean refugees outside the Chinese Embassy in Seoul on Feb. 21, 2012 during a rally demanding that Beijing scrap plans to repatriate arrested refugees from North Korea. The Chinese regime has intensified its crackdown on North Koreans who attempt to escape the Kim regime through China. (JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)The photo shows rights activists performing the roles of Chinese police and North Korean refugees outside the Chinese Embassy in Seoul on Feb. 21, 2012 during a rally demanding that Beijing scrap plans to repatriate arrested refugees from North Korea. The Chinese regime has intensified its crackdown on North Koreans who attempt to escape the Kim regime through China. (JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)

North Koreans who attempt to escape the brutal Kim regime through China are increasingly being apprehended by the Chinese regime and deported back, according to reports. Those who were forcefully returned face certain imprisonment, torture, and even execution.

Human Rights Watch estimated that in July and August alone China apprehended 41 North Koreans attempting to flee their home country by crossing over into and through China, a steep increase from the 51 who are known to have been caught the entire previous year, from July 2016 to June 2017. North Korean escapees were caught in various locations inside China from the North Korea-China border all the way to Lao-China border in Yunnan Province.

The fact that North Koreans were being caught as far away as Yunnan means that some of them traveled thousands of miles inside China and were a short distance away from freedom before the Chinese regime’s security apparatus sealed their fate.

The intensified crackdown on North Korean escapees likely started in July, as China arrested a number of local guides that help North Koreans pass through China. As news of the crackdown spread, guides and activists within the existing “rescue network” became more reluctant to take the risk of transporting unfamiliar escapees as they were fearful of being betrayed to the Chinese authorities.

A North Korean soldier stands guard on a boat with locals on the Yalu River near the town of Sinuiju across from the Chinese border town of Dandong on Feb. 9, 2016. (JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

A North Korean soldier stands guard on a boat with locals on the Yalu River near the town of Sinuiju across from the Chinese border town of Dandong on Feb. 9, 2016. (JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

Among the 92 North Korean escapees that were caught since June 2016, only 46 are still in Chinese custody and the rest have been deported back to North Korea, according to Human Rights Watch. The North Korean regime imposes severe punishment on those attempting to escape the country. Most would be imprisoned in concentration camps and face torture and abuse, and some of them would be executed, according to Human Rights Watch.

The deportation of North Korean refugees back to North Korea has been identified as a violation of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its accompanying 1967 Protocol. China is a signatory country for both. Article 33 of the Convention, also known as the principle of non-refoulement, prohibits countries from expelling or returning a refugee where “his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

The Chinese regime considers North Korean refugees only as “illegal economic migrants” rather than refugees or asylum seekers, despite the fact that these North Koreans are internationally recognized as refugees who would face severe persecution upon return.

North Korea has also stepped up its own efforts to crackdown on defections. In a recent report, South Korea’s Ministry of Unification said that 780 North Koreans eventually reached safety in the South between January and August, a significant decline from the same period one year previously, the Telegraph reported.

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North Korea has been harassing its neighbors for quite a long time. For powerful countries, it is just like a ringworm problem. But because it has nuclear weapons and long-range delivery tools, plus the eccentric personality of its leader, North Korea has become a major problem in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.
In the 1980s, the CIA listed six global areas: of conflict: the Korean Peninsula, the South China Sea, India and Pakistan, the Middle East and Israel, and Yugoslavia. Three of them have relatively direct relationships with China, and North Korea is the major one.
Different stances on North Korea
From a geopolitical point of view, China’s stance on North Korea can be listed as follows, in descending order of importance:
1. Maintain the current separation of governance of the Korean peninsula, making Korea a buffer between China and the United States.
2. Denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
3. Maintain the hostile relationship North Korea has with South Korea, Japan, and the United States.
4. Maintain North Korea’s political and economic dependency on China, so China can have a significant influence on North Korea’s domestic and foreign policy.
The United States also has its stance:
1. North Korea cannot have nuclear weapons or long-range missile technology.
2. Maintain the U.S.-Japan-South Korea military alliance (therefore North Korea’s military threat cannot be completely removed).
3. Avoid being involved in military conflict with China and Russia if the second Korean War breaks out.
If we go through the lists, we can understand the intricate relationship between China and the United States on the North Korea issue over the past decade.
Both sides do not want to see North Korea have nuclear weapons, but China does not want to exert too much pressure on North Korea to cause the collapse of the current government. Therefore, China has only reduced the aid to North Korea rather than fully opposing its nuclear weapons, and uses the issue to bargain with the international community.
Apparently, according to China’s intelligence information, North Korea’s nuclear weapons have yet to mature.
Common stance enhanced
However, due to recent developments, the common ground of the two sides was suddenly strengthened.
First, both sides do not want to see the reunification of Korea.
For the United States, if North Korea disappeared, there would be a unified Korea, which may weaken the U.S.-South Korea military alliance. For China, the disappearance of the buffer zone may lead to direct confrontation with the United States.
Second, both sides do not want North Korea to have nuclear weapons and long-range delivery tools. For the United States, North Korea’s nuclear weapons are a direct threat to the United States and bring about a nuclear proliferation problem.
For example, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons are North Korea’s technology. More countries having nuclear weapons will bring more potential danger to the world. Especially if the political situation of the nuclear-armed country is not stable, the risk will be much higher.
For China, North Korea’s nuclear weapons impose a much larger threat. It would be hard for North Korea’s atomic bomb to reach the United States, but it would be easy to bomb China.
The location of North Korea’s atomic bomb is only 100 kilometers from China, only 200 to 500 kilometers from China’s major northeastern cities, and less than 1,000 kilometers from Beijing.
The Chinese regime is really worried about the eccentric personality of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Since he came to power, the 30-year-old leader has killed a number of his assistants, replaced the majority of the military generals, and adopted aggressive diplomatic policies.
The internal affairs of the country are getting worse, and people are in hardship. There is an increased chance of political upheaval inside the country.
It would be fortunate to have one successor to control the situation. But if the country got separated, then North Korea’s nuclear weapons would be a huge threat to China.
Obviously, the frequent nuclear tests and the unstable leader of North Korea make the second listed factor overwhelmingly important, even ranking ahead of the first factor.
Therefore, it is not surprising that China and the United States reached a common understanding last week to exert more pressure on North Korea in the UN Security Council.
China may manipulate battle for successor
Nuclear and long-range weapons have a multiplying effect on the unstable North Korea problem, forcing neighboring countries to calm down and find a solution.
From the military, economic, and political points of view, it will not be a hard task for the U.S.-South Korea alliance to resolve the problem. If North Korea started a war, the U.S.-South Korea alliance could destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons and launching facilities through sophisticated intelligence operations, and then deploy traditional military operations to win the war.
However, the result would be the unification of South Korea and North Korea, fulfilling the life-long dream of South Korea’s first president, Syngman Rhee. This is the first possibility.
The second possibility is for China and the United States to resolve the problem jointly. Through intelligence cooperation from both countries, they could wipe out North Korea’s nuclear weapons and then make use of different factions inside North Korea’s military forces and push Kim Jong-il’s eldest son, Kim Jong-nam as the successor.
If we refer to China and the United States’ principles on the North Korea issue, we can see that the second possibility is more likely to happen. Obviously, this will solve North Korea’s nuclear weapons threat and maintain the separation of the Korean Peninsula, which will be beneficial to both China and the United States.
In fact, China and the U.S. military have already had discussions and reached a common understanding of this issue. Rumors from Washington said that if North Korea became chaotic, the Chinese military would control North Korea’s nuclear weapons, and the United States would provide intelligence assistance.
Kim Jong-nam is actually under the control of Chinese intelligence agencies. Over the past few years, Chinese intelligence agencies have released all kinds of news about him, but in

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While tensions between the United States and North Korea remain high over the North’s nuclear and missile ambitions, one Chinese think tank researcher decided to up the ante—declaring that China should use force against Taiwan if the U.S. attacked North Korea.
Yu Yingli, an assistant researcher with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS), a think tank affiliated with the Shanghai government, made the bellicose remark in the television program “From Phoenix to the World,” aired on Feb. 15 on the broadcaster Phoenix Television. Phoenix is based in Hong Kong but widely understood to be part of Beijing’s overseas propaganda apparatus.
“In the past, we used to rule out linking the North Korea nuclear problem with Taiwan,” said Yu. “But now, I think that if the United States wants to stubbornly go down the military path [against North Korea], China could consider thinking about North Korea and Taiwan as one problem,” she continued.
“If United States does not rule out the use of military force to resolve the North’s problems, our longstanding view is also that we should never rule out the use of force against Taiwan.”
After the Chinese Communist Party won the Civil War in 1949, resulting in the Nationalist Party retreating to Taiwan, the regime has sought the assimilation of the island into the People’s Republic of China, including by the use of military force if necessary. Taiwanese, on the other hand, have enjoyed their de facto political independence since the 1990s; the island-nation just held its sixth presidential election in January this year.
On the popular online forum Kdnet, Yu became a laughingstock among sophisticated Internet users. One with the name “ych0526” equated Yu’s suggestion to a father who held his own son hostage after being surrounded by police in a bank robbery.
While some netizens question whether China could win if it were to go to war with Taiwan, a commentator wrote: “Well you know the education standard in China when people like this get doctorates.”
Others vented about North Korea. “I support the United States of America to remove this evil regime,” one comment said, which was forwarded and liked by many other users.

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News Analysis
For once, the antics of North Korea may be acting against the interests of the Chinese regime—and, as the United Nations mulls its response, the ball is in China’s court.
North Korean state media claimed on Jan. 6 that they tested a hydrogen bomb. Seismic data suggests they did, in fact, test a nuclear weapon, but it had nowhere near the strength of a hydrogen bomb—and was even a bit less powerful than their previous test in 2013.
North Korea is still at the beginning stages of building nuclear weapons.

Norsar, a Norway-based group that monitors nuclear tests, published seismic data showing 4.9 magnitude after the blast. The explosion was actually smaller than North Korea’s last test on Feb. 12, 2013, which measured 5 magnitude; it was larger than their first test on Oct. 9, 2006, which was 4.2 magnitude.
To put that in perspective, Norsar estimated the blast was “comparable [in] size to the bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.” In other words, North Korea is still at the beginning stages of building nuclear weapons, and data show they haven’t improved their weapons much over the years.
Whatever the bomb’s power, however, North Korea having any type of nuclear weapon is viewed as a threat.
Shortly after the test was confirmed, the United Nations Security Council called an emergency meeting. Whether the meeting can accomplish anything depends on China. The Chinese regime is North Korea’s main backer, providing it with supplies and support; China also has a veto in the U.N. Security Council.
In most cases, the Chinese regime’s response to North Korean threats doesn’t go much further than empty condemnations. But things may be different this time, as North Korea has recently been biting the hand that feeds it.
In mid-December, 2015, China sent a lower-ranking delegation to protest Kim Jong Un’s claims he had a hydrogen bomb, and Kim didn’t take kindly to the snub. North Korea then cancelled the “friendship performances” of its all-girl Moranbong Band in Beijing, and allegedly put the Chinese ambassador to North Korea under investigation.
For the Chinese regime, the timing of the recent nuclear test couldn’t have been worse.

Relations between North Korea and the Chinese regime were already shaky before that. North Korea has been on a pseudo witch hunt in an “emergency investigation” for what it believes are Chinese spies, and by October it had already arrested or executed more than 100 Chinese nationals.
An unnamed source told DailyNK the campaign was started over perceptions the Chinese Communist Party was getting too close to South Korea. It stated, “Some Party cadres have even speculated that this move will spell the beginning of the end for Sino-North Korean relations.”
Shifting Ties
For the Chinese regime, the timing of the recent nuclear test couldn’t have been worse.
While North Korea likes to threaten the United States, it’s really only a regional threat—mainly to South Korea and Japan.
Facing increasing hostilities from China, Japan passed a new defense policy in September 2015 that will allow its troops to fight overseas for the first time since World War II. It also recently passed a record $41.4 billion defense budget for fiscal year 2016/2017.
What Japan’s shift in defense policy lacked, however, was popular support among the public—and North Korea may have just changed that to some degree by creating a very visible threat to the Japanese people.
The Chinese regime is now facing a similar issue with South Korea. Much to the dismay of the regime, South Korea has recently been negotiating with the United States to build a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the country.
South Korea has generally been growing closer to China diplomatically. Seoul views the Chinese regime as an intermediary to negotiate with North Korea—and it still wasn’t certain if it would install the THAAD system and risk relations with China.
But the recent nuclear test in North Korea may have also just changed this—and it’s possible South Korea may now go through with the plan.
The developments suggest the Chinese regime no longer has the same influence over North Korea that it enjoyed when Kim Jong Il was in power.
MORE:CHINA SECURITY: China Reaps What It Sows, as Paranoid North Korea Lashes Out
Normally, a North Korean nuclear test serves the Chinese regime’s interests. It likes the be the sane voice when North Korea goes haywire, and this helps with its own diplomatic missions in South Korea and Japan—but this case is different.
The previous understanding was that North Korea could act crazy, and the Chinese regime could use this for diplomacy with South Korea and Japan. The exchange was that the regime shields North Korea through its role in the United Nations, while also giving North Korea the supplies it needs to continue what it’s doing.
This understanding seems to have started to unravel, however, since Kim Jong Il died in 2011 and his son, Kim Jong Un, took over the country’s leadership.

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This news analysis was originally dispatched as part of Epoch Times China email newsletters. Subscribe to the newsletters by filling your email in the “China D-brief” box under this article.
The Chinese regime’s mad creation to its east may have finally turned on its master, and it appears that Chinese leaders aren’t ready to accept the fact.
North Korea’s all-girl Moranbong Band was set to hold three invitation-only “friendship performances” in Beijing, starting Saturday night. Yet, on the afternoon before the performances, the group went to the Beijing airport where they caught the first flight back to Pyongyang.
North Korea’s actions were allegedly in response to a small Chinese delegation, which was sent to protest a claim from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last week that he now has a hydrogen bomb.
The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Foreign Ministry didn’t seem to take offense—as they likely would have if any other nation pulled such a move. According to Reuters, its spokesman, Hong Lei, said the CCP still wants cultural exchanges with North Korea, and the shows were cancelled due to “communication issues at the working level.”
One of the CCP’s mouthpiece newspapers, the Global Times, published a similar claim, saying the cancellation was a “glitch” that wouldn’t have any long-term effects on the CCP’s ties to North Korea.
The “glitch,” however, was just one of many that has taken place recently in the CCP’s relations with North Korea. And in all cases, the CCP’s response has shown a level of muted restraint you’d be hard-pressed to find it showing anywhere else.
North Korea has been on a witch-hunt for Chinese spies. By October, the North Korean National Security Department had allegedly arrested, imprisoned, or executed more than a hundred Chinese nationals.
Some of the Chinese nationals were accused of being spies. Others were accused of illegally spreading videos, supporting “defectors,” working as money carriers, or holding religious activities.
The campaign didn’t end in October, either. DailyNK, a Seoul-based news source on North Korea, reported on Dec. 14 that even the Chinese ambassador to North Korea has been placed under investigation and is being monitored.
North Korea’s campaign against Chinese nationals, it reports, are part of an “emergency investigation” in every part of the country.
An unnamed source in North Korea told DailyNK that the campaign may be the Kim regime’s way of striking out at the CCP for getting too close to South Korea.
“Some Party cadres have even speculated that this move will spell the beginning of the end for Sino-North Korean relations,” it states.
The response from the Chinese regime has been uncharacteristically mild—at least when you consider how it would react if any other nation were to lash out against the CCP in such a manner.
Yet, the CCP’s mild response isn’t without reason. North Korea’s dictatorship is a product of Chinese intervention in the Korean War, and to this day the North Korean communist regime is sustained almost entirely by support from the CCP.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the CCP is North Korea’s main source of food, weapons, and energy. It states the CCP has helped sustain the regime by opposing “harsh international sanctions on North Korea in the hope of avoiding regime collapse and a refugee influx across their border.”
The CCP doesn’t support North Korea out of some benign sense of kinship, either. If that were the case, you’d likely see the CCP giving similar support and tolerance for its much-less-crazed communist neighbor in Vietnam.
Rather, it uses North Korea as a political tool—valuable inside China for propaganda, and valuable outside China as a tool for diplomacy.
In China, the CCP uses North Korea as a sort of reminder of the past—a preserved image of what China was like in the days of Mao. It reminds the Chinese that things could be worse.
Outside of China, North Korea serves other uses.
When North Korea makes its occasional threat of nuclear holocaust on South Korea, Japan, or elsewhere, the CCP can then approach these countries to help as an intermediary. This in turn, helps the CCP with diplomacy—particularly with South Korea.
Yet, it seems that under the hermit regime—where the drug methamphetamine is “offered as casually as a cup of tea,” according to Los Angeles Times—the air of paranoia is finally taking its toll.
And just like a drug dealer trapped in the same room with a junkie going through a psychotic episode, the Chinese regime has found itself the target in this latest bout of madness from the very thing it helped create.

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