15 eerie images show what it's like to live on the China-North Korea border

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The Independent Online

As North Korea ramps up its ballistic missile and nuclear testing programs, the world is watching the isolated peninsula with trepidation.

Days after the US deployed a naval strike group to the region, China reportedly sent 150,000 troops to the border in the face of increasing aggression from North Korea.

China has long been the sole major ally and trading partner of the reclusive nation, but heightened tension has resulted in an economic slowdown in relations.

Nowhere is this slowdown more apparent than on the 880-mile long border between the two countries. Although trade continues, half-finished buildings and an eerie sense of abandonment showcase the strained ties.

Reuters photographers visited the Chinese city of Dandong on the border to see how the area has been affected, and the photos are fascinating.

The border between China and North Korea has been described as the nation's "lifeline to the outside world."

The contrast between the two nations is stark. While much of the landscape along the North Korean side of the border is barren, punctuated with small towns...

The border between China and North Korea has been described as the nation's "lifeline to the outside world."

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Picture: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

The contrast between the two nations is stark. While much of the landscape along the North Korean side of the border is barren, punctuated with small towns...

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Picture: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

... the Chinese side is dominated by the city of Dandong.

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Picture: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

Since the oppressive regime has made it illegal for citizens to leave the country without its permission, the Chinese city of Dandong is the most many North Koreans will see of the outside world.

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Picture: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

At night, the only constant light from the North Korean side of the border is the illuminated statue of Kim Il-sung, the country's founding father, according to The Guardian's Matthew Poulter.

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Picture: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

The Friendship Bridge, seen in this photo, is one of the few ways to leave North Korea, and is also the most heavily used trade route.

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Picture: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

The reclusive peninsula's ongoing nuclear development has strained ties between the two nations, which, combined with UN sanctions, has resulted in slowed trade. The border is littered with run-down buildings and incomplete construction projects.

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Picture: Reuters/ Damir Sagolj

The sanctions limit the export of commodities such as iron ore and coal from North Korea, meaning the majority of goods passing through the border are now household items, food, and textiles.

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Picture: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

 

Despite signing UN sanctions against Pyongyang, China is keen to maintain trade relations with the regime as it fears its collapse would result in crowds fleeing over the border.

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Picture: Damir Sagolj

 

There's also a thriving black market for Chinese mobile phones in the border region. Chinese reception reaches over the river into North Korea, so with international calls being illegal in the hermit state, its citizens are willing to risk their freedom to get their hands on these devices.

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Picture: Damir Sagolj

However tense the situation may be, the border region still attracts plenty of tourists.

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Picture: Reuters/ Damir Sagolj

Visitors can take boat rides down the Yalu — the river that divides the two nations.

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Picture: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

It's also common for Chinese couples to rent boats and travel along the North Korean border on their wedding day.

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Picture: Reuters/Damir Sagolj

In this photo, a souvenir vendor takes a nap in front of barbed wire marking the border.

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Picture: Reuters/ Damir Sagolj

Ultimately, a visit to Dandong is probably one of the safest ways to get a peek into North Korea.

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Picture: Reuters/ Damir Sagolj

 

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