by Michael Ha
The Financial Times in Britain reported that the number of Chinese soldiers guarding the border has gone up since September amid ``mounting concerns about the health of Kim Jong-il."
Citing unnamed U.S. officials, the report said ``the People's Liberation Army (of China) has stationed more soldiers on the border to prepare for any possible influx of refugees due to instability or regime change in North Korea."
It said the increase in Chinese troops was not ``dramatic." But in addition to more soldiers, the Chinese military is also constructing more fences and installations at key border outposts, according to the report.
It said American and South Korean spy agencies believe Kim indeed suffered a stroke in August and that it affected the left side of his body.
The report said there are concerns about how long Kim can hold on to power if he is partially paralyzed.
Some reports said there may be a shift in power taking place in Pyongyang. This week, news reports speculated Kim's brother-in-law, Jang Song-taek, is consolidating power.
Some analysts said Jang is effectively standing in for Kim. They said he may now be in charge of receiving orders from Kim and relaying them to senior officials.
Jang reportedly has powerful allies and contacts within the ruling Workers' Party and the military. That could make him the second most powerful figure in Pyongyang and serve as a stand-in for Kim.
But analysts are quick to add it doesn't mean Jang is in line or being groomed to take over leadership. They said there are many questions about Kim's health and the regime's future.
North Korea is also taking a harder line against the South. On Wednesday, the North Korean military threatened to close its border with the South beginning in December. It accused the South of heightening tension between the two sides.
If North Korea goes ahead and closes the border, it could cut off road and rail routes between Seoul and the inter-Korean industrial complex in the North Korean border city of Gaeseong, North Korea watchers say.