BEIJING — Chinese border guards shot and killed one person who was allegedly trying to illegally cross from North Korea on Thursday, authorities said.

The incident took place shortly before 4:00 p.m. (0800 GMT) after the suspect attempted to evade arrest by border guards, according to a brief statement from the Helong city government in Jilin province. It said the shooting is under investigation.

China's 1,416-kilometer (880-mile) border with North Korea is a key crossing point for refugees from the impoverished hard-line communist state.

While China is treaty-bound to return refugees to its communist ally, it usually deals with them quietly to avoid attracting international condemnation.

North Korea is known to punish defectors harshly with labor camp sentences or even execution in some cases.

While some North Koreans stay in China, most are believed to travel on to South Korea.

Observers say the overall flow of refugees has dropped in recent months amid a slight improvement in economic conditions inside North Korea and increased obstacles on the Chinese side, including new fences and observation points.(AP)