China issues complaint after N. Korean defector is said to kill four

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.

Story highlights

  • 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.
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    "China's Public Security Department is now processing the case in accordance with the law," said Hua Chunying, spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a Monday press conference.
    South Korean news agency Yonhap cited an anonymous source, saying Chinese authorities have detained the man suspected of the alleged killings.
    There have been previous reports of runaway North Korean soldiers and citizens attempting robbery in search of food.
    A restaurant owner who lives in Dandong, another city bordering North Korea, recalled a harrowing incident in early 2013.
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    "One night, I heard a dog barking outside, so I got up to check what was going on. In the dim lighting, I saw a man dressed like a North Korean soldier stealing things from my restaurant," the unnamed owner was quoted in The Global Times.
    "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."