Citing Chinese export statistics on its trade with North Korea, the paper quoted analysts as saying that many of the cameras are being positioned at key points along the long border the two nations share in order to detect and capture would-be defectors from the North.

The new regime of Kim Jong-un has carried out a crackdown on people hoping to escape their repressive homeland, as well as anyone using a mobile phone to communicate across the border and smugglers bringing in banned newspapers, books and recordings of television programmes that show the lives of people in prosperous South Korea.

“All surveillance equipment there has something to do with the regime’s attempt to tighten its control over society,” a South Korea government official told the paper.