Reporting from Dandong today:
On Tuesday, a North Korean fighter jet crashed into a Chinese village a good 150 kilometers from the DPRK’s border.
It’s a MIG 21, according to Chinese news pages, and it appears (according to the same sources) that it took off from the DPRK air base near Sinuiju.
Locals in Liaoning (taxi drivers, man on the street, etc.) are a bit aghast that the plane got that far (about 140 km into China) without being intercepted/shot down, which is why I suppose Chinese reports are staying ambiguous among other reasons.
The North Koreans I ran into yesterday morning in Shenyang professed to know nothing about it.
Local websites and provincial reporters aren’t able to cover the story, carrying only Xinhua dispatches. In fact, Liaoning Daily’s website headline at the moment is “Together Build a Civilized and Harmonious Online Environment” which is basically the full text of a speech Vice-Minister for Propaganda Wang Zhen gave in Beijing. In other words, North Korea, you’re messing with the master narrative yet again. Not appreciated by the CCP.
Liaoning newspapers, however, do remain on the drumbeat protesting US-South Korean military drills, carrying long interviews with specialists about American “naval encirclement” of China. Liaoning is, if nothing else, a heartland of support for the Chinese military.
Chinese netizens did some quick work to identify the plane and have assembled some interesting snapshots of similar North Korean jets in very different contexts, along with some Google Earth maps here . The same Chinese BBS offers up a litany of random but interesting opinions on the plane crash:
“Maybe this was the North Korean Lin Biao” (referring to Mao’s putative general successor whose plane “crashed”/was shot down in Mongolia after an abortive coup attempt in 1971, and intimating that the pilot was a powerful person who got the worst of the struggles in Pyongyang)
“Is this being done to gin up public opinion during the US-ROK military drills?”
“Shouldn’t this militarily sensitive information remain offline? Internet control officers, can’t you remove this from the web immediately?”
“I still believe in the power of our country [e.g., China’s] air defenses.”
Finally, standing next to the open gates of a prosperous nation (e.g., China and the Chinese border in Dandong), I got an eyeful of a big red banner facing the Yalu. It had been set up in the wake of the shootings of Chinese traders across from Dandong by a North Korean border guard:
“Serve the People, Defend the Border,” it said. The left side of the banner was filled with a winding sandy picture of the Great Wall of China, with a blurred formation of four jets streaking above it, reminding me once again that North Korea has a talent for making China look bad.