SEOUL - Chinese troops have staged a river-crossing drill on the border with North Korea, fuelling speculation they are preparing to repel any future influx of refugees, a report said Wednesday.
The drill on Tuesday involved more than 100 soldiers along the Yalu river that marks the border between the two countries, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.
The exercise sparked speculation China is readying itself against possible regime collapse in Pyongyang, it said.
Soldiers wearing orange life vests could be seen building pontoon bridges at various points along the river, possibly preparing to enter the North's territory should an exodus occur.
Each bridge stretched 20 to 30 metres (66 to 98 feet) , made up of six or seven sections connected to each other, the report said.
Yonhap quoted residents in the Chinese border city of Dandong as saying such exercises take place on a regular basis and usually in the summer.
Tens of thousands of North Koreans have fled poverty and repression in their homeland, almost all of them across the border to China, which regards the fugitives as economic migrants and repatriates them.