China tells their citizens to 'duck and run' in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack

The sign outside Yanji’s new train station greets visitors to the home of the Korean Autonomous Region in northern China where ethnic Koreans make up more than one-third of the local population going back generations. They area tune into South Korea TV channels for news on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. [PHOTO: VIOLET LAW]	YANJI, China – Standing at six-foot-one, Che Yong shuddered at the thought of ducking for cover in a potential nuclear attack.

“I’ve been living with this threat even when I was still in college,” said Che, 27, now a PhD student in Korean literature. “And it’s just been getting worse. Where am I going to hide when the Big One finally hits?”

Che and other residents of this frontier town along China’s border with the Hermit Kingdom find themselves caught in the middle of the nuclear standoff between the US and North Korea.

For years, they have experience earthquake-like tremors whenever North Korean officials test nuclear weapons.

But in recent months, as the war of words between Washington and Pyongyang has ratcheted up, the prospect of nuclear Armageddon appears increasingly imminent.

Some are trying to prepare. And they received some instructions, too. In a rare move to hammer home the risks of a nuclear war, the Communist Party controlled-daily newspaper serving Yanji and Jilin Province ran a full page advisory late last year illustrated with instructional comics on how to stay safe in event of a nuclear attack.

“Don’t look toward the blast. And move quick – in two seconds look for a physical barrier to hide behind,” the advisory warned. “Jump into a river or a lake and dive under the water.”

The advisory failed to note the inconvenient fact that waterways in this frigid corner of northeastern China freeze for most of the winter. North Korean defectors walk across the frozen river border to reach Chinese soil. Authorities here routinely repatriate them.

North Korea leader Kim Jong-un has threatened to aim his arsenal squarely at U.S. interests. But to the Chinese here, the potential for collateral damage is palpable.

With the nearest underground test site less than 70 miles away, locals have already been rattled by the tremors of missile trial blasts. The athletic field of a high school near downtown cracked a fissure nearly two-feet long after a 2016 test blast. On social media sites there’s anxious discussion that nuclear exchange might trigger an eruption on an active volcano smack on the border.

“I can feel the earth shake beneath my feet. You bet I’m scared but what can I do?” said Wang Li, a university bookstore clerk who was looking after her nephew at the store. “I can’t leave this town. All my family is here.”

Anticipating that local residents like Wang and her family might have to flee their home after a nuclear strike, the Chinese government has reportedly been building several “refugee settlement sites” along the border. Citing documents obtained from China Mobile, the country’s largest phone service provider, media reports said the sites were designed to prepare for tensions along the North Korean border.

Robert Jacobs, a historian of nuclear technologies at Hiroshima City University who has studied survivors of the first-ever atomic bombing, said China’s duck-and-roll survival guide was largely futile. Authorities are likely ill-prepared for what follows the blast, he said.

“For people living across the border, the real problem for them is radioactive fallout and what comes after,” said Jacobs. “The advisory is public relations management. They tell people things to make them feel good.”

This region knows war, having survived Tsarist Russian occupation and later Japanese invasion well into the first half of the last century. But the possibility of mushroom clouds appearing on the horizon is something many Chinese citizens reluctant to speak too much about.

“I can see how this is a sensitive topic that the government doesn’t want us to talk about,” said Liu Xiaolong, 65, as he helped his toddler grandson put on a face mask to shield him from the cold. “There is nothing I can do about this.”

Knowing full-well China’s state-censored media tends to sweep news under the rug to maintain order and keep the peace, Che has been tapping other sources to stay informed on the nuclear threat. Yanji is home to the Korean Autonomous Region of northern China where ethnic Koreans like Che make up more than one-third of the local population that has lived in the region for generations.

“Most Koreans in the area tune into South Korea TV channels for news, so we have better access to facts,” Che said. “North Korea is a huge threat to our security."

An alternative version of this story can be found in USA Today.
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