North Korea escapees relaxing inside embassy


Japanese Embassy officials in Beijing on Thursday described the 29 apparent escapees from North Korea as being relaxed a day after they entered the Japanese school here in a quest for asylum.

Japan is still interviewing the group to confirm their identities, the officials added.

The embassy hopes to transfer the 29, who said they are from North Korea and want to go to South Korea, to South Korea via a third country, possibly Singapore or the Philippines, according to Japanese government sources.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda repeated in Tokyo that Japan will deal with the situation in a humanitarian way, indicating the 29 will probably be sent to South Korea.

“We deal with these situations in a humanitarian manner,” Hosoda told reporters. “We plan to deal with this incident the same way.”

Hosoda said he was not aware of any nongovernmental organization being involved in the incident.

The Japanese Embassy said in a statement that the 11 men, 15 women and three children were staying in a conference room in the visa section that is separate from the main compound.

“All of them seemed relaxed, and the children are playing with toys given to them by the embassy,” the statement says.

China meanwhile said its police are investigating Wednesday’s case, adding that it aims to step up security to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Chinese authorities hope to stop more of this kind of “disruption,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told a regular news briefing.

“We hope to go a step further with measures to prevent these situations from happening.

“We cannot tolerate these illegal and unlawful acts, these things that wreck social order and also wreck our embassies’ normal work.”

He declined to say what Chinese officials thought of Japan’s handling of the incident.

The 29 entered the school premises Wednesday morning through a hole cut in a wire fence surrounding the compound.