N Korea seeks to soothe China over border shootings

North Korean border guards shot at 4 Chinese nationals crossing river border.

Updated: Jun 10, 2010, 15:44 PM IST

Beijing: North Korea has told China it will punish those responsible for shooting dead three Chinese nationals near the two countries` border last week, and vowed to prevent any repeat, Chinese state media said on Thursday.

The isolated North made the effort to soothe China, its sole major economic and political supporter, after North Korean border guards last week shot at the Chinese nationals crossing the river border near the northeast Chinese city of Dandong.

Three were killed and a fourth was wounded.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said both countries were now "further investigating and handling the case". He provided no other details.

On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry made a rare public complaint about its neighbour and now North Korea appears to be seeking to placate Beijing.

North Korean border authorities said an initial investigation showed the incident was an "accident", China`s official Xinhua news agency reported.

"The North Korean side expressed its grief over the Chinese deaths, and offered condolences to the families of the dead and to the injured, and will severely punish the perpetrators," said the report.

"The North Korean border security authorities will further investigate this incident and prevent such incidents from recurring."

The deaths opened a rare public breach between the two communist neighbours, which have generally preferred to keep their quarrels behind closed doors. The border crossers were suspected smugglers, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

North Korea depends on China for much of its oil and food, and Beijing has avoided publicly condemning Pyongyang after Seoul said North Korea was responsible for torpedoing a South Korean naval ship in late March, killing 46 sailors.

Bureau Report