BEIJING North Korea is restricting visitors
from its ally and giant neighbour China, travel agents said on
Thursday, including virtually closing off one of its main
border crossings at Dandong.
North Korea lashed out at South Korea on Wednesday and said
it would close its southern land border from next month,
largely putting a stop to the few exchanges that exist between
the states divided since the Cold War.
The move follows growing anger in Pyongyang at the
hard-line approach of the South's conservative government,
which said it was cutting what once had been a steady flow of
unconditional aid and instead would tie handouts to progress
Pyongyang makes in ending its nuclear arms programme.
Travel agents in China, who send a steady though small flow
of tourists to impoverished and isolated North Korea, said they
were still organising visits, though trips had to be made via
air rather than by rail.
"The border has been closed since October. If you want to
go to North Korea, you have to go to Shenyang and fly from
there to North Korea," said one travel agent in Dandong,
referring to a northeastern Chinese city.
A Chinese rail official in Dandong said freight trains were
still able to cross over into North Korea.
"There are four trains a week to North Korea. One train
just left for there, though I don't know if there are any
passengers on it. I think most of the trains are freight
trains," the official said by telephone.
China's relations with North Korea have long been
characterised as being "as close as lips and teeth" after they
fought side-by-side during the 1950-53 Korean War.
China has been building a fence along the once relatively
lightly guarded border since 2006, when North Korea tested a
And the Financial Times cited U.S. official as saying that
China had recently boosted troop numbers at the North Korean
China is a major aid donor to a country whose economy has
shrunk drastically in recent years and which has great
difficulty feeding its people, but bilateral ties soured after
North Korea's nuclear test two years ago.
(Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Writing by Ben Blanchard;
Editing by Ken Wills and David Fox)