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N. Korean Asylum Incidents Increase Diplomatic Pressure on China - 2002-05-09

Several North Koreans are seeking asylum at the U.S. Consulate in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang. Meanwhile, Japan is protesting China's detention of two asylum seekers, believed to be North Koreans, on the grounds of the Japanese Consulate in Shenyang. The two incidents place increasing diplomatic pressure on China, North Korea's main ally.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing says a person claiming to be North Korean entered the American Consulate General in Shenyang, northeastern China, Thursday morning. The official also confirms that two North Koreans scaled the wall and entered the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang Wednesday. He says American officials are currently working with the Chinese government to resolve the situation.

Separately, Japan summoned China's ambassador Thursday to protest the police detention of two people believed to be North Korean on Japanese Consulate grounds in Shenyang. Japan says five people tried to enter its diplomatic mission in Shenyang Wednesday. It says three suspected North Koreans were arrested outside the compound and two made it into the Japanese Consulate building.

Japan's Foreign Minister, Yoriko Kawaguchi, tells a news conference in Tokyo that armed Chinese police entered the Japanese diplomatic building in Shenyang without permission. She says Japan has delivered a protest to China because the action violated an international diplomatic convention.

Tokyo has reportedly demanded that Chinese officials turn over the two suspected North Koreans to Japan. But China has thus far defended its move.

Beijing is North Korea's main ally, and refuses to recognize the refugee status of North Koreans illegally crossing the border to China. Beijing usually sends the refugees back home. But China has been put under increasing diplomatic pressure from other countries not to repatriate North Koreans seeking asylum at foreign embassies.

In March, 25 North Koreans rushed into the Spanish Embassy in Beijing and demanded asylum. A day later, they were sent to South Korea via the Philippines.

Since then, Chinese police have stepped up security in Beijing's diplomatic districts, by blocking off roads and reinforcing barbed wire fences along embassy walls.