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5 Asylum Seekers May Be Released

May 15, 2002|From Reuters

TOKYO — Japan and China agreed today that five North Korean asylum seekers who were dragged out of a Japanese consulate in northeastern China last week would be released and sent to a third country, Japanese media reported.

The Kyodo news agency said the agreement came during talks in Tokyo between China's ambassador to Tokyo and Japan's vice foreign minister.

Officials, however, would not confirm the deal. The two sides had agreed only on the importance of an urgent solution, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.

China and Japan have been at loggerheads over the asylum seekers, including a 2-year-old girl, since Chinese police seized them and dragged them from the consulate in the city of Shenyang a week ago.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper said the five would be sent to South Korea or the United States via Manila as early as today.

It was unclear what sort of face-saving agreement would be forged to resolve the feud. Japan has demanded that the North Koreans be handed over and that Beijing apologize for the incident, which Tokyo says violated diplomatic conventions. China insists that its police received permission from the Japanese consular staff to remove the asylum seekers.

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