China blames North Korea for killing three of its citizens
Beijing today delivered an unusual criticism to North Korea over the killing of three Chinese citizens. North Korea is heavily dependent on ally China for financial and food aid.
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The incident could strain relations between the isolated "hermit kingdom" and China, North Korea's strongest ally and aid donor, even as Beijing comes under pressure to take a stronger stance against Pyongyang for its role in the sinking of a South Korean warship on March 26 that killed 46 sailors.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday that China issued a formal protest over the shooting incident, which occurred near the Chinese border town of Dandong, according to the BBC. The BBC noted that "it is unusual for China to make any public criticism of its neighbor."
Bloomberg reported that the four Chinese citizens were shot inside North Korean territory, close to the border. A Seoul-based group of North Korean defectors called "North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity" first reported the incident on June 4 and said the four Chinese citizens were trying to smuggle copper from North Korea, according to Bloomberg.
The deaths, which North Korea Intellectuals said occurred on the night of June 3, came as North Korea tightened border security, the group said.
Television footage shot by Bloomberg on June 4 at the Tumen River Bridge border crossing, at the other end of China’s 1,415 kilometer (880 mile) border with North Korea showed several men running across the bridge looking over their shoulders back toward North Korea. It wasn’t possible to ask them about their behavior.
In other news likely to strain North Korea-China relations, the South Korean news website Chosun Ilbo reported that Chinese authorities arrested a North Korean government official for drug trafficking. A 33-year-old North Korean official surnamed Rim was detained in March by Chinese authorities, according to a South Korean activist, Do Hee-yoon, quoted by the newspaper.
"North Korean agents targeting South Korea have been arrested before for their involvement in drug trafficking, but it's unprecedented for a senior government trade official to be arrested for direct involvement," Do said. "The Dandong Customs Office has mobilized customs officials from Dalian to probe all aspects of North Korea-China trade."
According to Do, Chinese officials arrested four drug dealers in the northeast province of Liaoning, and found out from them that a North Korean was the "key figure" in their drug ring, the Chosun Ilbo said. The bureau reportedly confiscated 2 kg of top-quality methamphetamine Rim had hidden in a kimchi container when he traveled from Sinuiju to Dandong.