| DANDONG, China, April 12
DANDONG, China, April 12 A single,
ancient-looking North Korean helicopter dropped five
paratroopers on their side of the Chinese border on Friday in a
rather less-than-defiant, lonely show of force following weeks
of angry war rhetoric from Pyongyang.
North Korea has ramped up its threats after being hit by new
U.N. sanctions since carrying out a third nuclear test in
February, prompting the United States to fly stealth jets over
the peninsula and to prepare anti-missile systems for Guam and
U.S. and South Korean officials say they have detected no
signs of a military build-up in North Korea, whose vast armed
forces are in any case believed largely to be poorly equipped
and poorly trained, though a formidable array of missiles and
artillery is aimed at South Korea.
A Reuters reporter in the Chinese city of Dandong, which
borders the reclusive state, said he could see North Korean
paratroopers dropping from a Soviet-era helicopter during a
drill above Sinuiju, which lies opposite Dandong.
Five people jumped from the helicopter into the hazy skies
and pulled their parachutes before the aircraft flew low and
disappeared behind the tree line across the Yalu River that
divides the two countries.
There was no sign of other military activity.
Six equally ancient bombers could be seen sitting quietly
beside the runway of Sinuiju's airfield.
Further down, where the border crosses the land, unarmed
North Korean soldiers manned a barbed-wire border fence,
chatting, laughing and sitting on their haunches while farmers
ploughed the bare fields behind them.
Dandong, a bustling little city with a clutch of new
high-rise apartment blocks lining the river, remained quiet.
In narrow, dusty streets surrounding Dandong's main customs
office, traders loaded trucks with boxes of fruit and daily
necessities ordered ahead of a national holiday celebrating the
birthday of North Korean state founder Kim Il-sung.
"Is any country really scared of them?" said Chinese retiree
Zheng Jia, 73, walking along the riverbank which faces North
Korea. "China may back them, there's no way China will support
them starting a fight."
China's Defence Ministry on Friday denied foreign reports
that the People's Liberation Army was building up on the
country's border with North Korea.
Still, state media said that another Chinese border city,
Hunchun, had carried out an unusual air raid drill on Thursday,
though images carried on Hong Kong's Phoenix Television
suggested it was small scale, with old ladies shown shuffling
into shelters clutching handkerchiefs over their mouths.
Rather than unsettling anyone, the reports caused some mirth
on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-like microblogging site.
"You're kidding," wrote one user. "I live in Hunchun and I
heard nothing about this."