More than 50 agents from the National Security Agency entered China via the border crossing at Hoiryeong in North Hamkyung Province and Sanhe, China on the 22nd, allegedly to hunt out North Korean defectors residing in the area.
An inside source from the region told Daily NK on the 26th, “Border crossers started becoming an issue in China recently, and as soon as that happened the Central Party issued a special order to ‘use this opportunity to totally remove the very roots of illegal border crossing’. 50 NSA agents who had been working in anti-espionage for a long time were chosen and left for China on the 22nd.”
The project is unusual in many ways, but most clearly in terms of scale. On past occasions, notably when information about the Kim family was likely to get out or when a high official attempted to defect, special units of 4-8 NSA agents were rapidly formed and sent into China to work on the issue, but not on the present scale.
A unit of such a scale will of course be able to extend its reach much further inside China. According to the source, the group will first work in the main cities of the Yanbian Autonomous Prefecture, before moving to secondary and tertiary stops on the major route out into other areas of China: Shenyang, Mudunjiang and Jilin
It is unclear whether the NSA agents have been dispatched with the agreement of the Chinese government.