China says a North Korean border guard shot and killed three people and injured a fourth on the Chinese side of the border last week, prompting a formal complaint from Beijing.[UPDATE 1 (bigger update below): The BBC is now carrying the story, though it offers no new insight into why. It did make me wonder if this public rebuke of China is a signal that Beijing is trying to ease out of the locked-together-in-a-closet relationship they have with Pyongyang. It's also interesting to note that the the BBC says Laura Ling and Euna Lee "said they were detained on the Chinese side."]
Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said a North Korean border guard last Friday shot four Chinese residents in the northeastern border town of Dandong.
Qin said China has formally complained to North Korea over the incident.
I'd like to know more about who these people were and how they came to be in the line of fire of a North Korean guard on the Chinese side of the border.
But for now, let me get up on my soapbox. So four dozen South Koreans killed and China hardly bats an eye, but a mere three Chinese are killed (and no, I'm not trying to make light of their tragic deaths) and they finally complain.
And if you're thinking that incidents like this will finally make Beijing wake up to the toxic regime it is sponsoring just beyond the Yalu/Amnok, think again: Back in December 2005 I expressed that very sentiment when DPRK soldiers killed a Chinese member of the PLA, and we can see it's gotten us nowhere.
Don't worry, I'm not going to get all Sistah Souljah and suggest that we should encourage North Koreans to kill Chinese more often in order to get Beijing to sit up and take notice, but I think if China starts to see such North Korean poison spilling over onto its own territory, that would eventually work.
UPDATE 2 (June 9, 2010):
Barbara Demick of the Los Angeles Times gives more details on the shooting:
The Chinese were from the border city of Dandong, site of the Friendship Bridge, across the Yalu River, commemorating China's support for the North during the Korean War. According to reports in the South Korean media, the Chinese were suspected of smuggling copper wire out of the North Korean city of Sinuiju, which lay on the other side of the bridge. The reports said they were on a boat on the river when they were shot.Ms Demick notes that some ROK officials share my scorn for China in their, ahem, asymmetrical response:
"In the aftermath of the incident, China has paid a lot of attention to this issue and has made a formal diplomatic protest to North Korea," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday, reading an official statement at a regular media briefing in Beijing.
"This time it is their citizens who are killed, and they show they are not so naive after all about North Korea," said Kim Tae Jin, a North Korean defector and human-rights activist in Seoul. He applauded, however, China's protest over the shooting. China needs to show North Korean leader Kim Jong Il "that he can't get away with whatever he wants," Kim said.As I suggested somewhere else, this really is beginning to make me imagine the possibility that Beijing is actually trying to use this as a pretext for coming down harder on the Pyongyang. We shall see.
China's public protest is unusual in that relations between China and North Korea are normally shrouded in secrecy, to be discussed only in the politburos of the longstanding Communist allies.