In the News – S. Korea keeps up pressure on China over N. Korean defectors

In the News – S. Korea keeps up pressure on China over N. Korean defectors

SEOUL, March 2 (Yonhap) — South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan urged his Chinese counterpart Friday to deal with North Korean defectors held in China in line with international rules, pressing Beijing not to repatriate them to their homeland where they face severe punishment and even death.

Kim made the request to the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi when they held talks in Seoul that focused on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues, Seoul officials said.

“During the talks, Minister Kim emphasized that China should respect international laws in dealing with the issue of North Korean defectors, based on a humanitarian perspective and the principle of no forced repatriation,” said a senior Seoul official who took part in the talks.
Kim asked Yang to “swiftly resolve” the issue of North Korean defectors in China through “close consultations,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

In return, Yang reiterated that China regards them as economic migrants, not as refugees, but expressed hopes of resolving the issue through cooperation with South Korea, according to the official.

Yang also said that Beijing opposed the “politicization and internationalization of the issue,” the official said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan (L) shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi in Seoul on March 2, 2012. (Yonhap)

Later in the day, Yang paid a visit to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

Presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha said Lee asked for active cooperation from China to “smoothly” resolve the defector issue.

Yang responded that China will take South Korea’s request seriously and relay what was discussed in the meeting to Chinese President Hu Jintao, according to the spokesman.

Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of North Koreans are believed to be living in hiding in China after fleeing their communist homeland, hoping to settle in South Korea.

The issue has drawn fresh media and public attention as China is reportedly moving to return dozens of detained North Korean escapees to their homeland where they are certain to face severe punishment or even execution.

Also high on the agenda for the talks between Kim and Yang was a surprise nuclear deal simultaneously announced by both the U.S. and North Korea on Wednesday.

Washington and Pyongyang said North Korea had agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program and nuclear and missile tests in return for massive U.S. food aid, a deal experts say raised hopes for an easing of tension under the North’s new young leader.

Both Kim and Yang welcomed the deal and agreed to work together closely to let North Korea take “concrete actions” to implement the pledge, the official said.

The deal was announced on the heels of high-level North Korea-U.S. talks in Beijing last week, brightening hopes of reviving the long-stalled six-party talks aimed at ending the North’s nuclear programs.

It was the first significant deal North Korea has reached with the outside world under its young leader, Kim Jong-un, who took the helm of the communist regime after the December death of his father and the North’s longtime leader, Kim Jong-il.

Original article can be found here

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