BEIJING — Two people scaled the wall of the U.S. Consulate on Wednesday and five others tried to rush the Japanese mission in Shenyang in northeastern China, officials said.
The five in the second incident, thought to be North Koreans, were taken away by armed Chinese police who apparently entered the consulate, prompting Japan to lodge a complaint with China.
The two incidents followed a spate of similar events by North Koreans seeking political asylum. The asylum bids have embarrassed China, which has stepped up security in Beijing's diplomatic districts.
The incidents have thrown a spotlight on the Chinese government's refusal to recognize as refugees tens of thousands of North Koreans hiding on its northeastern borders with the Communist state, an old ally.
The fates and nationalities of the two people who tried to enter the U.S. Consulate--also in an apparent attempt for asylum--were not immediately clear.
"Two intruders scaled the wall and entered the compound at the U.S. Consulate in Shenyang," a U.S. spokeswoman said. She said there were no further details.
Chinese police officers grabbed three of the apparent asylum seekers at the entrance to the Japanese Consulate, but the officers then rushed into the diplomatic compound to seize the other two people, according to the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.
The embassy said that if Chinese police officers had indeed entered the consulate without consent, it would constitute a violation of international laws and be "extremely regrettable."
"We think China's response in this case was very problematic," a Japanese Embassy official was quoted as saying in a meeting with a Chinese Foreign Ministry official.
The official also said Japan wants China to return the detainees to Japanese authorities.
Chinese police have been on high alert for potential asylum bids after 25 North Koreans sprinted past Chinese guards at the gates of Spain's mission in March, the second major North Korean defection in less than a year.
Last week, Beijing put up barbed wire and doubled patrols around embassies in the capital.
Despite the protest, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi played down the impact that Wednesday's incident might have on shaky Sino-Japanese relations.
"I think we need to respond so that issues like these do not impede Japan-China friendship," he told reporters in Tokyo.
South Korea has appealed to China not to repatriate the detained would-be asylum seekers to Communist North Korea, because they could face penalties ranging from jail to execution, activists say.
Aid groups say between 100,000 and 300,000 North Koreans have fled to northeastern China in recent years to escape political repression and famine in which hundreds of thousands have died.
Nearly 2,000 North Korean escapees have settled in South Korea. Most have arrived via China in recent years.