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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
A “friendly delegation” of North Korea’s Ministry of People’s Security (MPS) departed for China on Tuesday, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
The delegation is being led by MPS Councilor Ri Song Chol, KCNA said, though no additional details regarding his Chinese counterparts or the purpose of the trip were included.
It is possible Ri’s delegation may meet with officials from China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS), with which the North Korean MPS last publicly signed an agreement almost a decade ago.
The trip also comes on the heels of more recent exchanges with Russia’s police agency, with Ri leading an MPS delegation to Moscow last December.
In those meetings, law enforcement was reportedly the “primary topic of conversation” as the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) delegation shared their experiences managing large numbers of foreign tourists, among other areas.
A Russian MVD delegation also traveled to Pyongyang in April to continue talks on deepening cooperation between the two countries’ police agencies.
But exchanges between the Chinese and DPRK agencies appear to have subsided, at least publicly, since a number of high-level visits surrounding an agreement in 2011.
Ri Song Chol last led a delegation to Beijing to meet with Chinese MPS officials in April 2012, which was quickly followed by another, more substantive meeting led by then-minister Ri Myong Su in July that year.
The Chinese MPS reported that then-minister Meng Jianzhu said in the talks that “law enforcement cooperation has become closer,” and that the two sides had been working to “actively implement cooperation documents” signed in February 2011 in Pyongyang.
The two sides also reportedly continued to discuss “the security of the border areas of the two countries.”
In another follow-up meeting to the February agreement, held in Beijing in September 2011, Meng said the two sides would seek to “strengthen cooperation in combating transnational cross-border crime, case investigation, and repatriation of criminal suspects.”
The Chinese police are frequently the subject of complaints over targeted or systematic arrests of North Korean escapees in China, with many accusing the two police agencies of violating human rights in their coordination.
The People’s Public Security University of China (PPSUC), operating directly under the MPS, reported that Ri’s delegation also visited their school during the trip and that they were willing to help North Korea’s own similar universities develop.
PPSUC pointed to the “fields of education and training, personnel training, and scientific research” as potential areas of cooperation with North Korea’s security colleges or training centers.
Just a few months later, North Korean state media announced the country’s People’s Security University would be renamed to the Kim Jong Il People’s Security University (KJIPSU), and it was officially re-inaugurated in July 2013.
Elsewhere in recent Sino-DPRK law enforcement exchanges, the central prosecutors’ offices of each country have also conducted exchanges, with the two sides signing a memorandum of understanding in Beijing last month.
It is also possible the leaders of the two countries Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping discussed matters of police cooperation or exchanges during their most recent summit in Pyongyang from June 20-21.
President Xi said during those talks that “China is ready to help the DPRK to solve its own reasonable security and development concerns.”
Meanwhile, China’s MPS continues to improve its surveillance systems and integrate new technologies such as artificial intelligence and face recognition, in concert with a vast network of cameras and other hardware.
According to state media, North Korean universities and companies have been exploring similar technologies, and the use of CCTV cameras appears to be on the rise throughout the country.
The North Korean MPS works directly under the State Affairs Commission (SAC), as does the Ministry of State Security, known as the country’s secret police, and the country’s armed forces.
Edited by James Fretwell and Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News