North Korean enters Seoul’s PRC consulate

BEIJING, Reuters

Another North Korean asylum seeker has slipped into South Korea’s consulate in Beijing, joining four others stuck in the middle of a diplomatic wrangle between Seoul and mainland China over what to do with them.

“He’s in his 20s,” a South Korean diplomat said on Thursday. “He came directly from the border area to Beijing. He hasn’t been in China very long.”

The diplomat said the man entered the consulate — located separately from the embasy — on Saturday, about a week after four others including an officer in the North Korean army sneaked into the consulate.

The five were holed up in the mission with no immediate signs of a break in the deadlock over their fate.

Seoul has said the asylum seekers must have the final say on where they go next and asked Beijing to allow them to travel to South Korea.

But Beijing, which allowed 38 North Koreans who entered foreign diplomatic missions to leave via other countries for South Korea in the past two months, has taken a harder line in this case involving the diplomatic mission of Pyongyang’s rival, Seoul.

On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao reiterated Beijing’s demand that the consulate turn over the asylum seekers for investigation and to verify their identities.

“The South Korean embassy has notified the Chinese side that five people have entered the embassy and the Chinese side has requested the South Korean embassy hand over the five people for investigation and verification,” he said.