China says North Korea border patrol killed three Chinese

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A view of North Korea from Dandong, showing the Friendship Bridge in the foreground
Image: Prince Roy.

The government of China has made a rare public protest over allegations that the North Korean border patrol shot three Chinese nationals dead and injured a fourth near the Chinese town of Dandong last week. Qin Gang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry reported that the government of China has formally complained to North Korea, despite the two countries' normally amicable relationship.

Qin says that the men were shot "on suspicion of crossing the border for trade activities", and that "China attaches great importance to that and has immediately raised a solemn representation with the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the legal name of North Korea]". He reports that the incident is currently under investigation, but refuses to comment on the validity of the accusations. "In the aftermath of the incident, China has paid a lot of attention to this issue and has made a formal diplomatic protest to North Korea," said Qin.

It is rare for China to publicly complain. Usually there is a private apology or money paid

—Heung Gwang

China is North Korea's primary source of international trade, and illegal traders crossing the border are perceived as a great threat. North Korea is also involved in a dispute with its neighbour, South Korea, regarding the sinking of a South Korean ship in March, killing 46 people; while an international committee found that North Korea was responsible, China refuses to place any blame on the nation, which it sees as an ally. Heung Gwang, a former North Korean college professor and head of Seoul-based North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity, said that because of this "it is rare for China to publicly complain. Usually there is a private apology or money paid."

Dandong is the site of the Sino-Korea Friendship Bridge, a commemoration of China's aid of North Korea during the Korean War of the 1950s. The Chinese people were reported to be in a boat when they were shot, for allegedly carrying copper wire out of North Korea and into China.

The North Korean border guards caused controversy last year, when they detained two United States journalists on the Chinese border on charges of illegally entering the country. They were sentenced to twelve years hard labour, but a campaign led by former US president Bill Clinton saw their release after only four months.