March 22, 2016 / 11:43 AM / 2 years ago

North Korean consular official in China kills two in car crash

BEIJING (Reuters) - A North Korean consular official in China has killed two people in a car crash, China’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, reporting the accident shortly after China came out in support of sanctions against its ally over its nuclear program.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency earlier reported the North Korean official was driving drunk, and the accident took place after he had left an event celebrating North Korea’s launch of a long-range rocket on Feb. 7.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not mention those details in a statement to Reuters but said the official’s vehicle hit a taxi in the city of Dandong, near the North Korean border, early on Feb. 10, killing the driver and a passenger.

The North Korean official had paid compensation to the families of the victims, the ministry added, in a rare revelation of wrongdoing by an official of an allied power.

China is North Korea’s sole major ally but China disapproves of its nuclear program.

The North conducted its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6 and a month later launched what it said was a space rocket. The United States and other critics said the launch was cover for its development of ballistic missile technology that could be used to deliver a nuclear weapon.

The U.N. Security Council unanimously agreed this month to harsh new sanctions, drafted by the United States and China, on North Korea to starve it of money for its nuclear weapons programs.

U.S. State Department officials have expressed optimism that the sanctions may be more effective than earlier attempts to curtail North Korea’s nuclear program, pointing to China’s apparent willingness to support them.

Officials at North Korea’s embassy in Beijing could not be reached for comment.

Crime committed by North Koreans in China has frequently sparked public outrage in China, particularly after a string of murders apparently carried out by deserters from the North Korean army in villages near the border last year.

Reporting By Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Robert Birsel

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