• Reuters

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A North Korean murdered a Chinese family of three last year, Chinese media has said, the second recently reported killing of Chinese citizens by North Koreans. The incidents could strain ties between Pyongyang and its sole major ally.

The family was killed last September in a town in Jilin, which borders North Korea, the Beijing News said Tuesday.

The victims were a 64-year-old man, his 60-year-old wife and their 25-year-old son, the newspaper said, citing a relative, a man surnamed Yong. The North Korean man stole 500 yuan ($80), a handbag and two mobile phones, the paper said.

The killer was caught by North Korean soldiers on his return, the paper said.

Yong was quoted as saying that the North Koreans “come over regularly, demanding money and food.”

“When they enter (the village), they directly ask for money and demand food,” Yong said. “They have weapons. No one dares not to give them (what they want).”

China is North Korea’s most important diplomatic and economic ally, though three nuclear tests, several rounds of saber rattling and violence on the China-North Korea border have tested Beijing’s support.

On Monday, China said it had lodged a protest with North Korea after media reports said an army deserter killed four Chinese during a robbery in the Chinese border city of Helong late last month.

The 521-km long Tumen River, which divides China and North Korea, is a popular breakout route used by defectors fleeing the secretive state.

In a rare criticism of the Chinese government, the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid, expressed annoyance that people had to find out about the killing of the four Chinese nationals through South Korean media first.

In an editorial on Tuesday, it asked why there was an extra layer of sensitivity towards North Korea and said the Chinese government “should not be too accommodating.”

“North Korea’s national situation truly is unusual, but we believe that the China-North Korea relationship is not that fragile,” the newspaper said.

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