Contingency planners from China's People's Liberation Army have formulated a set of emergency measures to cope with the ramifications of a collapse of North Korea's regime for the border area, including a possible massive influx of refugees, according to internal PLA documents.
The documents -- which Chinese military sources say were compiled in the summer of last year, or several months after North Korea carried out its third nuclear test -- call for boosting China's monitoring capacity along the two countries' 1,416-kilometer-long border.
They also call for setting up camps on the Chinese side of the border to handle any influx of North Korean refugees.
The crisis management plans do not mention North Korea by name but refer to it otherwise, such as "our country's northeastern neighbor."
Among the scenarios deemed possible is an attack on North Korea by foreign forces leading to the collapse of political control and triggering a massive outflow of refugees and military personnel across the border into China.
In such an event, the plans call for special groups be sent to border areas to ascertain the situation, investigate new arrivals, block entry to any deemed dangerous or undesirable, and counter oppositional forces.
To cope with an influx of refugees, camps with a capacity of 1,500 people each should be set up in counties along the border, the documents say.
According to the documents, any important North Korean political or military figures who could be targeted for assassination should be given protection. But at the same time, they should be placed in special camps where their activities could be monitored to prevent them from directing military operations or engaging in other activities that could be detrimental to China's interests.
Another scenario involves a "military power," presumably a reference to the United States, crossing the China-North Korea border on some pretext such as countering terrorism.
If diplomatic negotiations were to fail to resolve the problem, the documents say, other steps that could be taken include closing the border or carrying out cyberattacks to disrupt information networks.
North Korea's ostensibly close official ties with China, its traditional ally and main aid donor, stem from China's dispatch of troops to Korea in the 1950-1953 Korean War and a legacy of shared socialist comradeship.
The two nations' solidarity, however, has been tested by their different paths of development, Beijing's increased ties with Seoul, and Pyongyang's erratic behavior in which it has acted against China's interests in a number of areas including by pressing ahead with its nuclear weapons program.