North Korea called on China Friday to return its citizens who were caught trying to flee to another country, and denounced South Korea and the United States for trying to lure and kidnap its people.
The spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) said Pyongyang has urged the "related country" to reject anti-DPRK actions being pursued by Seoul and Washington, and return its citizens according to international law. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's official name.
The statement, carried by the Korean Central News Agency, did not specify China as the country it is appealing to, but Chinese authorities did arrest 13 escapees in Yunnan Province last week.
Those arrested have likely been moved to Liaoning Province near North Korea.
"The latest incident clearly shows systematic inhumane crimes carried out against our citizens that cannot be tolerated," the official said. He said calls by South Korea and the United States not to send back DPRK citizens can only be viewed as brazen provocations.
South Korea and the United States have asked Beijing not to deport the defectors because they can face persecution at home.
China is a signatory to the 1951 refugees convention and the 1967 protocol protecting people who have fled their home countries, although in the past, it returned most escapees to the North.
The CPRK official, meanwhile, said South Korea's spy agency is using those it kidnapped in the past to contact people in the communist country and lure them into defecting.
"Those taking part in such criminal actions will punished without hesitation," the official warned. (Yonhap News)