North Korea’s Ministry of State Security (MSS) recently sent an official complaint to Chinese authorities criticizing their complacency in policing the Sino-North Korean border and even threatened the use of weapons to control movement in the region, Daily NK has learned. 

“The Ministry of State Security sent what essentially amounted to a complaint against the Chinese to the Chinese border guard,” a military source told Daily NK on Monday. “The complaint demanded that China must better control the activities of its people in the border region, particularly in the Yalu River region.” 

The complaint comes after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called on officials to take “special measures on disease control” at an expanded meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK)’s Politburo on Friday. 

“Our preventive measures are about more than prevention. They are key to our national project of protecting our people, and the responsibility of the Central Committee of the Party,” Kim said during the meeting. “All must adhere strictly to the decisions and directions of the Party center, and focus all energies on the safety of the nation and in protecting the lives of the people.”


The MSS sent the strongly-worded complaint to the Chinese border guard on Feb. 29 through customs offices and sentry points on bridgeheads in Ryanggang, North Pyongan, North Hamgyong and Chagang provinces. The gist of the complaint was the demand that the Chinese exert more control over the movement of Chinese people in the border region.  

North Korean officials reportedly stressed in the complaint that the Chinese need to “ensure that Chinese people and animals do not interact with our [North Korean] people.” The complaint also emphasized the need for Chinese border patrol to put more effort into preventing smuggling and illegal crossings from occurring. 

The complaint also mentioned the issue of Chinese people abandoning animal carcasses and allowing their livestock to graze near the border, and demanded that Chinese authorities take measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus through animals. 

A summary (in Korean) of the complaint sent by the MSS to Chinese authorities. / Graphic: Daily NK

The emphasis placed on these issues is likely based on North Korea’s concern that COVID-19 originated from wild animals sold in markets in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus. 

“We don’t have anyone wandering around on our side of the river, but the Chinese side often has people who bring their sheep or cows to drink from the Yalu River,” one source told the Daily NK. “North Korean authorities likely have received many complaints about this behavior and decided to send the official complaint in the hope of stopping it.”

“The complaint also reflects a concern held by the authorities that they can’t prevent the spread of the disease if Chinese people are wandering around freely near the river – particularly given the fact that there’s a high likelihood they could pass on the disease,” he added. 


The complaint also suggested that North Korean authorities could use weapons to control the border if the Chinese failed to control border violations, although it did emphasize that any issues arising on the border would be dealt with as “fairly as possible.” 

During the expanded meeting on Friday, Kim Jong Un ordered that any and all measures must be taken to protect the country from the spread of COVID-19. North Korea’s threat to use weapons to control movement on the border most likely stems from Kim’s emphasis on “any and all measures.” 

The mention of weapons is also likely aimed at directly criticizing the complacency Chinese authorities have shown in policing the border. 

Daily NK sources that the Chinese responded to North Korea’s complaint by agreeing that “joint efforts are needed” to improve the situation; however, Chinese authorities made it clear that they are “absolutely opposed” to the use of weapons on the border. 

“The Chinese will [respond to the North Koreans’ complaint] by quickly improving their policing of the border,” one source said. 

“As both sides continue to communicate freely on how to improve border security, the Sino-North Korean border will be shut tight to any movement for the time being,” he added.

*Translated by Violet Kim

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