Tuesday, June 08, 2010

4 Chinese Nationals Shot at North Korea Border

4 Chinese Nationals Shot at North Korea Border
copyright by The New York Times
Published: June 8, 2010

SHANGHAI — The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that a North Korean border guard shot dead three Chinese nationals and wounded one last week in an incident in northeast China, prompting the Chinese government to file a formal complaint.

The shootings took place last Friday at the China-North Korea border by the Chinese city of Dandong, in Liaoning Province, said Qin Gang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, at a regularly scheduled news conference in Beijing. The four Chinese who were shot were residents of Dandong and were believed by the guard to be engaged in illegal trade across the border, Mr. Qin added, according to a report by the Chinese-language edition of Global Times, an official newspaper.

“China attaches great importance to that and has immediately raised a solemn representation with the D.P.R.K.,” Mr. Qin said, using the acronym for the formal name for North Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea “Now the case is under investigation.”

Mr. Qin did not provide more details of the attack.

It was unclear how the shooting incident would affect relations between North Korea and China, which is North Korea’s closest ally in the region. China has been the host of the six-party talks, a series of negotiations among the United States, North Korea, Russia and several Asian nations aimed at curbing North Korea’s nuclear program. Last month, Kim Jong-il, the reclusive North Korean leader, made his first visit to China in four years, crossing the border by train and stopping first in the port city of Dalian, then continuing on to Beijing.

The actions of North Korean leaders have been made more opaque and unpredictable in recent months by what analysts believe is Mr. Kim’s effort to engineer a transfer of power to his third son, Kim Jong-un, 27.

China has come under pressure recently from the United States and South Korea to take a tough stand on what American and South Korean officials say was a torpedo attack on a South Korean warship in March that killed 46 sailors. China has taken a circumspect approach to the assault, to the disappointment of White House officials. China’s overriding principle on North Korea is to avoid actions that would lead to instability there, analysts say.

North Korea’s economy is in tatters, and the North Korean government relies on aid from China to help alleviate widespread food shortages. China continues to engage in trade with North Korea, and Dandong is a hub for the transfer of goods between the countries. The Yalu River forms the border there, and Chinese tourists regularly cross into North Korea from Dandong to the North Korean town of Sinuiju and beyond. North Korean refugees also cross illegally into China in that area, often with the aid of Christian groups.

North Korean border guards have been known to act unpredictably. In early 2009, two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, were detained by North Korean guards at the border near the Chinese town of Yanji. The Americans were working on a documentary about North Korean refugees. They were later sent to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, and convicted for illegal entry and other activities, but were pardoned by North Korean leaders and sent home after Bill Clinton, the former American president, made a trip to North Korea to lobby for their freedom.

Li Bibo contributed research.

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