China Steps up Security After Murders Near Korean Border

China has stepped up security in areas near North Korea after a surge in murders of local residents by citizens of the isolated state crossing the border seeking food.

Surveillance cameras have been installed along parts of the 1,400 kilometer (880 miles) frontier, and civilians are being trained to use weapons to help government soldiers patrol border villages, China’s Ministry of Defense said in a Jan. 14 paper.

The steps are being taken in the autonomous prefecture of Yanbian, an area with many ethnic Koreans that shares a long border with North Korea, the defense ministry’s Zhongguo Guofangbao newspaper reported Jan. 14. China filed a complaint after a North Korean soldier murdered four residents of Nanping village in Yanbian last month.

Around 20 villagers have been murdered in Nanping by North Koreans in recent years, a senior local official said in an interview, prompting some residents to leave the village in fear of their lives. Many of the attacks have been committed by North Korean soldiers from a base in sight of the village on the other side of the Tumen river.

The growing violence reflects a rising desperation among soldiers, including border guards, since Kim Jong Un took over as supreme leader in Pyongyang three years ago. As well as seeking food, they are entering China to steal money. North Korea has suffered from food shortages and as many as 1.1 million people died during the famines of the 1990s, according to South Korean estimates.

Militia, police, border guards, forestry police and troops have to collaborate to monitor frontier areas, especially at sensitive times, the paper reported. “The condition at the border is quite complicated,” it said. “It’s very hard to provide efficient control with one single force.”

About 30 times more crimes are committed by foreigners in Yanbian than in other parts of China, according to a 2010 report by Yanbian’s procuratorate body. North Koreans accounted for nearly 80 percent of the 237 cases involving foreigners in the prefecture from 2005 to 2010.

— With assistance by Keith Zhai

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