China denies sending troops to North Korea

"China will not send a single soldier to other countries without the approval of the UN," an official at the Chinese Ministry of Defence told state-run Global Times here today.

There are several conditions under which Chinese troops will be stationed in other countries and that includes for peacekeeping missions and disaster rescue efforts approved by the UN, the spokesman said.

He was responding to a report by Seoul-based Chosun Ilbo newspaper quoted an anonymous official at the presidential Blue House as saying that China had stationed a small number of Chinese soldiers in Rason, northeast North Korea, after discussions with Pyongyang.

The South Korean official said the deployment of Chinese troops in North Korea was aimed at protecting China's investment in port facilities and Chinese nationals, rather than for political or military purposes.

The report, coming ahead of tomorrow's key visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to Washington for talks with his US counterpart Barack Obama, had caused a sense of disquiet here in the light of a strong stand taken by Beijing over the number of military exercises being held by South Korea along with US troops in the Korean peninsula.

The exercises also unnerved North Korea, the close ally of China, which is calling for direct talks to ease tensions.

The precarious situation in the Korean peninsula was expected to figure high in the talks between Obama and Hu.

"China has neither the plan nor the conditions to deploy troops in other countries," Zhang Zhaozhong, a military expert at the PLA National Defence University said.

Zhang said one major reason why South Korean media makes such reports is that "there are some people who are not comfortable with the diplomatic efforts being made by
China to ease tensions in Korean Peninsula, because those efforts make attempts to retaliate against North Korea much less likely".

Chinese analysts disputed assertions by the South Korea report that this was the first time Beijing had sent troops to Pyongyang since 1994, when China supervised a truce between the two Koreas following the 1950-53 Korean War.

Gong Keyu, an expert on Korean affairs at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times that even back in 1994, those whom China sent to North Korea were "merely negotiators".

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