The Chosun Ilbo is reporting that 12 armed North Korean border patrol troops tried to escape into China earlier this month, only to be forcefully repatriated to the North after they were caught by the PLA.

At the end of last month, two North Korean soldiers tried escaped into China after killing their commanding officer, suggesting that there may be “strange signs” within North Korean units based along the Sino-Korean frontier.

The Chosun Ilbo says the spate of military defections along the frontier might be connected to food shortages. Aid to North Korea has dried up considerably since sanctions were slapped on the North following its rocket and nuke tests, leading to an aggravation of the food situation. Units in Pyongyang and along the DMZ get priority when it comes to rations; units along the Sino-Korean frontier are reportedly making do with corn and baby potatoes. A source tells the Chosun that with the spring austerity season upon us, you could see an increase in North Korean military defections.