DOZENS of North Korean soldiers were injured when mines they were laying along the country's border with China exploded, sources say.North Korean soldiers patrol along the country's border with ChinaCredit: AFP - Getty The North Korean regime is thought to be clamping down on defections into ChinaCredit: Reuters
Injuries were reportedly sustained by North Korean troops in two separate incidents.
It comes after orders issued by the North Korean regime in August instructed its soldiers to shoot anyone who came within a kilometre of the border.
Economic turmoil exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic has reportedly led to heightened concerns in Pyongyang about attempts by North Korean citizens to flee over the border into China.
Speaking to Radio Free Asia, a military source from North Korean province of Ryanggang said: “It’s been less than 15 days since they started deploying the mines, but one exploded while some soldiers were burying it.
"About a dozen soldiers were injured, some in their eyes, legs or back."
The mines, which have a kill radius of around three metres, were reportedly being placed around 60 metres from the Chinese border.
North Korea is known to have used mines along its border with South Korea, but has not previously placed them on its border with China.
Mines have now been laid in at least two of the five North Korean provinces that share a border with China.
'THEY WANT TO SEAL THE BORDER'
A resident in the second province, Hamgyong, told Radio Free Asia that several soldiers had been injured in a similar incident there.
The source added that the explosion had occurred because the soldiers were not provided with proper training before having to lay the mines, and were "simply [told] to begin work immediately".
“What is so urgent about deploying landmines at the North Korea-China border to the point that multiple explosion accidents have occurred due to a lack of training?” the source said.
“This can only be interpreted as an attempt to completely seal the border and prevent residents from fleeing.”
While it is not known clear how much the coronavirus has been able to spread in North Korea, the pandemic has forced the country to close its border with China, cutting off trade routes with its most important diplomatic and economic partner.
Recent years have also seen its economy severely hit by international sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons programme.
The number of yearly defectors to South Korea peaked at just under 3,000 in 2009, but has been falling consistently since Kim Jong-un took power in 2011, and is now around 1,000 per year.