Notes on a Strange Event

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.  

North Korean MIG-21


  1. I expect (and I seriously hope) some heads will roll over this. It is a scandal of gigantic magnitude that the PLA completedly failed to detect the fighter jet. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Americans wipe out the whole Zhongnanhai leadership in one single sortie.

  2. Han Xudong [韩旭东], prof. at National Defense U., has an editorial out about this incident in Huanqiu Shibao which I just ran across on my favorite Chinese DPRK blog:

    Unfortunately I have neither the time to translate nor read the piece through, but have at it!

    By the way, lots of traffic across from North Korea tonight on the bridge from Sinuiju, truck after truck after truck. Why do they wait until nighttime to do the business of trade? It’s as if there’s something they don’t want the Sinuijuites to see. Also some very happy PLA schmoozing with North Korean friends in the restaurant next door. The airplane incident didn’t seem to cool off relations in Dandong, in other words.

    1. That editorial, as is most other stuff on Huanqiu Shibao is a piece of crap. Just because the North Korean fighter jet was reportedly a Mig-21, an obsolete jet that is not believed to have carried out an surveillance mission on China, the PLA had no reason to shoot it down or at least to send fighters to escort it? So he was basically saying the Chinese knew it was a North Korean Mig-21 all along and they knew that it meant no harm therefore they did nothing? Incredible. Prof. Han, what a piece of work you are.

      With this type of goons filling the ranks of the PLA they have no chance whatsoever against the Americans.

  3. On another NK-related subject, some images have come out recently of a huge new martyr’s cemetery built in North Hamgyong, Chongjin city. There was a short item about this recently on KCNA, but these images give more specifics and show immense dimension:

    I smell promotion!

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