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‘China not immune to pressure’

A senior Foreign Ministry official said China seemed to be feeling the international pressure over its policy of forcefully repatriating North Korean defectors.

“China seems very uncomfortable about the issue of North Korean defectors being internationalized. The Chinese authorities seem to be thinking deeply on how to deal with this issue,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

On Monday in Washington, D.C., a U.S. congressman urged the U.S. government to link treatment of North Korean refugees to the recently-agreed food aid to North Korea at a hearing on China’s forced repatriation of North Korean defectors.

Separately, a South Korean government official visited Beijing on Wednesday for a two-day consultation with Chinese authorities over North Korean defectors.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Kim Soo-kwon, director-general of the Korean Peninsula peace regime bureau, will meet with Chinese foreign ministry officials to find solutions on China’s policy of forced repatriation of North Korean refugees. He will also meet with North Korean defectors who have been living in the South Korean Consulate General in Beijing, the ministry said.

Kim’s visit came as Seoul began to drum up international support in pressuring China to not deport some 30 North Korean defectors currently held by the Chinese authorities.

More than 10 North Korean defectors are now confined in the South Korean Consulate General in Beijing and Shenyang. Some of them have spent nearly three years waiting to seek asylum in South Korea due to Beijing’s policy.

Kim is expected to discuss humanitarian aid issues with Robert King, U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, while King is in Beijing to work out arrangements with Pyongyang officials for U.S. food aid to North Korea.

Separately, the Foreign Ministry’s inter-Korean policy division head has been touring Southeast Asian countries including Thailand and Laos since Monday to learn the fleeing routes of North Korean defectors and seek the local authorities’ support in helping them.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Kim Sung-hwan met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York on Wednesday to discuss the North Korean defector issue, before meeting U.S. Sectary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday.

By Kim Yoon-mi (yoonmi@heraldcorp.com)
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