Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has previously claimed North Korea is free of the global pandemic and said he isn’t worried about it. However, in July he backtracked and warned it “could have entered” the country.
Pyongyang closed its borders with China to try and prevent the spread of the virus and in July, North Korea raised its state of emergency to the maximum level.
Now, according to US forces in the South, North Korean Special Operations Forces (SOF) are patrolling the border with China and have been ordered to shoot-to-kill anyone trying to enter the country through these means.
US Forces Korea (USFK) commander Robert Abrams said the border closures increased demand for smuggled goods, forcing authorities to intervene.
Mr Abrams said North Korea introduced a “buffer zone, one or two kilometres up on the Chinese border”.
North Korea to shoot and kill on China border
North Korea to shoot anybody near China border
He said: “They’ve got North Korean SOF out there… Strike forces, they’ve got shoot-to-kill orders in place.
“The regime right now – the military – is focused principally on getting their getting recovered and to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19.
“We’re not seeing any indications right now of any sort of lashing out.”
According to Radio Free Asia, the ban applies to the 880-mile border between the two countries.
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North Korea to shoot anybody entering from China
Police have reportedly been sent additional ammunition to help enforce the draconian policy.
Last month, a North Korean military source who confirmed the policy to RFA, said: “At around 5pm on the 25th, an urgent telegram from the Supreme Command came in telling the military to kill anyone within a kilometre of the border regardless of the reason.”
“The emergency message goes into effect from midnight on the 26th,” a second source added.
“The emergency order stipulates that soldiers on border guard duty will leave behind their blank shots and carry only live ammunition.”
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Over recent weeks, North Korea has battled against the coronavirus pandemic, received harsh sanctions from the US and UN and saw its legal trade with Beijing crumble.
The country has also witnessed a series of devastating typhoons and flooding.
In a rare admission of failure, the North Korean dictator admitted his country is struggling to meet its economic objectives.
Analysts warned these catastrophes have increased the importance of revenue form North Koreans operating overseas.
North Korea introduce draconian measures
Peter Ward, an expert on the North Korean economy at the University of Vienna, said: “It is probably worse than it has been for a long time.
“Things do look very, very bad and they looked like they were bad before the coronavirus hit.
“They could look at the issue of structural reform at home – but I don’t think they will; there are very few indications that they are thinking about it.”
Andrei Lankov, a North Korean expert at Koomin University in Seoul, warned as Kim Jong-un turns to China for aid, Beijing will use them as part of a strategic decision against the US.
North Korea reportedly has no COVID cases
He said: “They will just send enough food just to make sure North Koreans will be malnourished but not starving to death.
“They will send enough fuel, just to make sure vital production can continue.
“They will send basic supplies, just to make sure that North Koreans will not get angry and go out on the streets.”