This file photo from 2009 shows a Chinese border guard patrolling on a bridge over the Tumen River that marks the border between China and North Korea.

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Chinese local media reports said a North Korean army deserter killed four people across the border in China

China's foreign ministry lodges formal complaint to North Korea following reports

CNN  — 

China’s foreign ministry has lodged a diplomatic complaint to North Korea after Chinese local media reports said an army deserter killed four people near the China-North Korea border.

A North Korean soldier fleeing the country shot four Chinese citizens after a robbery attempt in late December in Helong, a city near the Tumen River that divides the two countries, Chinese local media reported.

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson says they have “lodged representations” with North Korea, briefly acknowledging the incident without giving any further details.

South Korean news agency Yonhap cited an anonymous source, saying Chinese authorities have detained the man suspected of the alleged killings.

The defector was shot by the Chinese police in a manhunt operation, and has died from injuries suffered during his capture according to the ministry.

A restaurant owner who lives in Dandong, another city bordering North Korea, recalled a harrowing incident in early 2013.

“I yelled at him and he held up his gun as if he was ready to shoot. I was terrified and ran back to my room. He stole some meat and fled by speedboat.”

In most cases, intruding soldiers were after food, and do not have the intention to harm people, making it rare that such violent cases would occur, reported the Chinese state-run newspaper.

Thousands of North Koreans have tried to flee the country in hopes to escape the totalitarian regime. However, China has a uniform policy for sending defectors back to North Korea, ruling them as “illegal economic migrants.”

READ MORE: Chinese ‘snakehead’ gangs offer only escape for North Korea’s defectors

CNN’s KJ Kwon contributed to this report.