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Japan-China Diplomatic Stalemate Continues - 2002-05-14

The diplomatic stalemate between Japan and China over the fate of five asylum seekers shows no sign of resolution after talks Tuesday in Beijing. China says Japan is overreacting in the dispute, which began when Chinese police seized five North Koreans in a Japanese diplomatic compound.

China's Foreign Ministry says a Japanese diplomat gave permission for police to enter the Japanese consulate in Shenyang. The police last week hauled away the five asylum seekers, screaming and kicking. Under international law, local police can not enter embassies or consulates without the permission of the foreign nation.

China says the Japanese diplomat gave assent with a nod, a hand gesture, and words in Chinese.

Japan rejects China's account of the matter and a videotape of the incident shows the police rushing into the compound before the Japanese diplomat arrived on the scene.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan says the videotape must have been edited and doctored.

Mr. Kong says Japan should "face the truth squarely" in the matter and stop "overreacting."

He also says since the September terror attacks on the United States, police have good reason to react strongly when unidentified people rush toward sensitive facilities such as diplomatic missions.

A Canadian diplomat says Canada and China are still negotiating about the fate of two North Koreans who entered Canada's embassy in Beijing, seeking asylum last week.

Three North Koreans who got into the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang last week have made their way to South Korea. Late Tuesday, a U.S. Embassy spokesman thanked China for its "constructive" approach to resolving that incident.

Tens of thousands of North Koreans have fled their starving, repressive nation into neighboring China. In the past year, dozens of them have managed to dash past Chinese guards into diplomatic buildings where they request asylum and passage to South Korea.

Human rights groups and foreign governments say these migrants will face persecution if they are forced home and should be protected as political refugees. China, however, says they are economic migrants, and tries to send them back. The Foreign Ministry's Mr. Kong says there is no need to have the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees determine the status of these migrants.

China is working to stop the flow of migrants by deploying more police around diplomatic missions and surrounding the buildings with barbed wire fences.