Now the Chosun Ilbo is the voice of South Korean conservatism and as such not averse to imagining such crises in North Korea that do not actually exist, so take this with whatever condiments seem appropriate:
North Korea has been building concrete machine-gun pillboxes along the border with China since December as the Chinese staged massive military drills in the area.
North Korea Reform Radio quoted a North Korean source as saying each platoon of the border guard units stationed at strategic points along the Apnok and Duman Rivers has been ordered to build three concrete machine-gun emplacements. Officers of each brigade and battalion are looking for rebar and cement outside their camps.
The pretext is that South Korean forces are massing in China for an invasion. This is nonsense of course, but it may be an oblique reference to the fact that Seoul and Beijing have drawn together in recent months under pressure of Japanese revanchism – and also maybe a growing perception in Beijing that North Korea is now a problem rather than just a problematic ally
It’s also true that the 39th Group Army has been marching up and down the border region on a series of exercises since, oh, since just about the time it was announced that Jang Song-taek had been executed. This is surely just a demonstration, but I can’t think of a time before when China made such an obvious display clearly intended for the notice of Pyongyang, or any ally. There have also been reports through 2013 that North Korea was fortifying the Chinese border, though this was explained in terms of stopping defections.
The other fun factoid here is that as I understand it around 70% of the KPA is concentrated on the inter-Korean border, making an incursion from the North a more feasible prospect if a decision had been made to end the Kimist dispensation. Of course, any such move would require Seoul’s approval, which in turn means US signoff, and that’s unlikely given that it would mean the US accepting a de facto Chinese sphere of influence in northeast Asia. But anyway: Yanbian China bears watching over the next few months.