SEOUL — North Korea has created a special police squad and bought large amounts of riot gear from China in apparent preparation for any disturbances similar to those in the Middle East, a report said Tuesday.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the North had bought tear gas, helmets and shields through merchants in China’s northeastern city of Shenyang in recent months.
The development indicates concern at a possible popular uprising similar to the ones sweeping North Africa and the Middle East, the agency quoted a source as saying in a dispatch from Beijing.
The North has also created a special nationwide police anti-riot force, Yonhap said.
South Korea’s intelligence chief said in March the North had stepped up its campaign to block information on pro-democracy protests in the Arab world for fear of disturbances among its own people.
Leader Kim Jong-Il, who took over after the death of his father and founding president Kim Il-Sung in 1994, tolerates no dissent.
But there were reports of rare public unrest in 2009 following a bungled currency reform that wiped out savings, pushed up prices and worsened already severe food shortages.