April 30, 2015 / 10:21 AM / 2 years ago

China says army helps to investigate murders near North Korea border

BEIJING (Reuters) - China’s Defence Ministry on Thursday said its forces were helping with an investigation of three murders near the sensitive border with North Korea, although it declined to confirm reports the suspects were North Korean army deserters.

A 55-year-old man, his 26-year-old daughter and another 67-year-old man were murdered on Saturday in the small Chinese border town of Helong, the government said in a statement.

South Korean broadcaster KBS said three North Korean soldiers who had fled the military committed the murders, but the Chinese government has yet to confirm a direct link.

The Public Security Ministry was investigating, with help from the army, Defence Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng told a regular monthly news briefing.

“The army’s border forces will closely coordinate with the local authorities, and maintain the security and stability of the border with North Korea,” he added, without elaborating.

Last year, a North Korean murdered a Chinese family of three, Chinese media said in January.

China is isolated North Korea’s biggest trade partner and only significant ally, but a series of nuclear tests by Pyongyang have deeply angered Beijing.

The 521-km- (324-mile-) long Tumen River that divides China and North Korea is a popular breakout route used by defectors fleeing the secretive state.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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