Asking the Wrong Question

Chinese armor: Coming soon to a North Korean capital near you? (AP photo)

Chinese armor: Coming soon to a North Korean capital near you?
(AP photo)

The headline asks, “Why Did China Amass Tanks at the North Korean Border?” And here are some details from the story the major networks seem not to have noticed:

On Saturday, Chinese social media users began posting pictures of tanks and other military equipment moving through city streets. The photos were purportedly taken in Yanji, China, the capital of Yanbian prefecture in Jilin province, which lies along the China-Korea border.

Other Chinese social media users posted pictures of a train appearing to carry more military equipment – but those pictures were explained as showing military technology on its way to Beijing for the upcoming military parade. There was some confusion about this point, with some of the same pictures being identified by different sources as taken in or outside of Yanji and Beijing.

NK News, in its analysis of the images, said the photos represented “a mechanical unit at least the size of a brigade,” made up of “PTZ-89 tank destroyers (Type 89), a PGZ-95 self-propelled anti-aircraft guns (Type 95 SPAAA), and 155 mm self-propelled guns.” Kim Min-seok of the Korea Defense and Security Forum told NK News that there’s precedent of China sending additional units to the border region during times of increased tensions on the peninsula: “During the bombardment of Yeonpyeong in 2010 and after the purge of Jang Song Thaek in 2013, Chinese units were quickly sent to the area to prevent any unexpected surprises from the China-North Korea border.”

But the question isn’t why Beijing moved armored units to the Yalu River on Saturday morning. The question is why did North Korea perform an about face on Saturday night, and even issue an almost-unprecedented apology to South Korea?

And there’s your answer, in the form of “a mechanical unit at least the size of a brigade.”

It’s good to know that Kim Jung-un isn’t so crazy that Beijing can’t still jerk his chain when it needs jerking.

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