China Vows to Repatriate 30 North Koreans

Posted February 21st, 2012 at 7:10 pm (UTC-5)
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China has rejected South Korean pleas not to repatriate 30 North Koreans recently arrested in Chinese territory.

A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry, Hong Lei, said Tuesday the detained North Koreans are illegal economic migrants and not refugees deserving protection. The spokesman indicated his government rejects taking the issue to the United Nations.

South Korean activists said their talks with the Chinese government were not going well and that they would seek global support from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva.

Human rights activists say the North Koreans could face torture and even public execution if repatriated.

In another development, Hong said China is welcoming talks between high-level North Korean and U.S. negotiators in Beijing this Thursday.

He expressed hope that the outcome of the dialogue results in the resumption of the six-party talks aimed at persuading Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear arms program.

The six-party talks began in 2003 but have been stalled for more than two years, after North Korea expelled international nuclear inspectors. In addition to the United States and North Korea, the talks include China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.