North Korean diplomat killed 2 Chinese in car accident: Chinese government

BEIJING (AFP) - A North Korean diplomat who killed two Chinese citizens in a car accident has paid compensation to the families of the dead, China's foreign ministry told AFP on Tuesday (March 22).

The unnamed North Korean was involved in a traffic accident with a taxi in the early hours of February 10 in border town of Dandong, according to a fax from the foreign ministry sent in response to questions from AFP.

The taxi driver and one passenger were killed and an official investigation is under way, the ministry said. The amount of compensation was not specified.

South Korean news agency Yonhap earlier reported that each family had been paid 500,000 yuan (S$104,000), citing an unnamed source.

The North Korean was drink-driving, Yonhap reported, although it gave a different date for the accident and said three people had been killed.

China is the isolated North Korean government's main diplomatic protector and provider of trade and aid, but Beijing is becoming increasingly frustrated by Pyongyang's insistence on pursuing its nuclear and missile programmes, which have seen it sanctioned by the United Nations.

Over the past 18 months at least 10 Chinese people have been killed by North Koreans - mostly soldiers - attempting robberies in border towns north of Dandong, according to Chinese officials and state-controlled media reports.

Last April, a trio of North Korean soldiers searching for food and money killed three people, according to local authorities and Chinese media.

That came after a North Korean soldier was fatally shot in December 2014, having murdered two elderly couples while stealing 100 yuan ($16) and some food.

At the time, China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said after the quadruple killing that it had "lodged representations" with Pyongyang and both sides took the case "very seriously", adding the North had "expressed its regret that such (an) incident happened".