North Korea and China recently signed an agreement to help ease tensions along their border following shooting incidents involving North Korean border guards and Chinese nationals, Daily NK has learned.

According to a Chinese diplomatic source familiar with the agreement, the Chinese requested consultations with the North Koreans to “protect their citizens” and an agreement on the “working-level measures” came about at the North Korean embassy in China on Sept. 10.

Based on this agreement, China will raise customs duties three-fold on goods entering the country (from North Korea) if North Korean border guards “indiscriminately” and “recklessly” shoot and kill a Chinese national. The agreement also requires North Korea to compensate a shooting victim with RMB 1,200,000 (around USD 175,922).

On Sept. 11, the Ministry of State Security and General Staff Department ordered the North Korean border patrol to abide by details of the agreement. The order was accompanied by a directive telling the border patrol to “refrain” from shooting at people in China who cross into North Korean territory.

“From this past Spring until last month, North Korean soldiers shot and killed several Chinese near the border but North Korea failed to apologize properly, so the Chinese government proposed [the agreement] as a way to protect their citizens,” the source, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told Daily NK.

The source said that the closure of the border because of the COVID-19 pandemic means that North Korea is unable to import many of the things it needs from China. “That’s why North Korea had no choice but to acquiesce to China’s demands,” he added.


Another source in China who spoke to Daily NK on condition of anonymity recently reported on signs that North Korean border guards seem to be taking a different approach to Chinese who cross the border.

The source said that two Chinese men had brought their cow down to the Yalu River to drink water near Changbai, Jilin Province, on Sept. 21. When the men and the cow moved toward the line demarcating the Chinese border with Yanggang Province, North Korean border guards started to approach them.

Given that the North Korean border patrol had shot and killed a Chinese smuggler in May, the two men were reportedly “tense” because they feared they may be harmed by the border guards.

Despite their fears, the North Korean border guards just threw rocks at the two men while yelling at them to return to Chinese territory; the men took their cow and left the area without incident.

An image showing parts of a recent order handed down by the Ministry of Social Security mentioning (circled in red) that anyone found in the “buffer zone” will be shot. / Image: Daily NK

After returning to their village, the two men reported the incident and the Chinese border patrol’s propaganda department posted a notice at villages near the border the same evening.

The notice stated that North Korea and China had “signed an agreement” for the North Korean government to pay a “large amount of compensation” if any Chinese national is wounded or killed by North Korea soldiers on the border. The notice went on to say that it is “unlikely that North Korean soldiers will fire their weapons” but that locals should avoid going near the Yalu River because North Korea has “heightened its state of alert internally.”

Daily NK reported earlier this month that North Korea established “buffer zones” along the border with orders to shoot at anyone who enters the zones without warning.

The mention of North Korea’s “heightened state of alert internally” in the Chinese border patrol’s notice appears to reflect the establishment of these buffer zones.

Despite the Sino-North Korean agreement to ease tensions on the border, there are no signs that North Korea is set to open its border with China anytime soon.

“North Korea sent a message of congratulations to China for announcing victory over COVID-19, but I understand that officials have been told to avoid trusting China’s medical statistics,” the Chinese diplomatic source told Daily NK. “It doesn’t look like the border lockdown will be loosened before the end of this year.”

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