Japan will seek further talks with China and South Korea over the case of five North Koreans whose attempt to seek asylum at a Japanese consulate in China was frustrated by local police, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Friday.
“There are still differences between the Japanese and Chinese stances,” Koizumi said.
The five — a couple, their 2-year-old daughter, the man’s mother and his younger brother — left China on Wednesday and arrived in Seoul early Thursday via Manila.
The May 8 incident, in which the North Korean asylum seekers were dragged from the Japanese Consulate General in Shenyang by Chinese police, has led to a diplomatic row between Japan and China.
Chinese Vice Premier Qian Qichen said Thursday that Japan and China have achieved a “preliminary solution” to the diplomatic dispute, indicating he does not want to see the incident cast a shadow over ties with Japan.
Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said at a news conference that the humanitarian side of the issue has been resolved but that does not signify an end to the incident.
Japan says China violated international law when its officers entered the consulate, but Beijing insists the police received Japanese consent.
“The stances are different, and Japan will resolutely and calmly negotiate with China on this point, bearing in mind overall Japan-China relations,” Kawaguchi said.
A videotape of the incident clearly shows Chinese police officers entering the consulate grounds and dragging out two women. But it also shows consulate officials standing by, watching the incident unfold. At one point, a consulate official is seen picking up a police officer’s hat that had fallen, dusting it off and returning it to him.
Kawaguchi said the government is considering how to proceed in the talks with China, including ways to reinforce cooperation with the Chinese security authorities to prevent a similar incident from happening.
Japan had asked China to let Japanese officials meet the asylum seekers to clarify the purpose of their entering the consulate, but China rejected the request, saying it would handle the matter itself.
Koizumi also said Friday that Japan will ask South Korea to allow Japanese officials to interview the five North Koreans.
“I realize the South Korean government has its own stance,” he said. “But we still need to negotiate with South Korea.”
Separately, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said, “We have to do what needs to be done. We will talk about the issue with South Korea.”
Senator offers help
WASHINGTON (Kyodo) U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback said Thursday he would help the five North Korean asylum seekers who arrived in Seoul early Thursday to relocate to the United States.
“If there’s a question in some of the paperwork and we can work to get the visa over to the United States, we will seek to do so,” Brownback, a Kansas Republican, said at a news conference on the North Korean refugee problem in China.
Brownback was joined by two Republicans from the House of Representatives — Tom Davis of Virginia and Edward Royce of California.
The asylum seekers had carried a letter that stated their hope to defect to the U.S. when they were seized by Chinese police at the Japanese Consulate General in Shenyang on May 8.
They arrived in Seoul early Thursday, 15 days after their ordeal began.
On Wednesday, State Department deputy spokesman Phil Reeker said, “We were not approached to provide resettlement in the United States.”
The five North Koreans — a couple, their 2-year-old daughter, the man’s mother and his younger brother — were allowed to leave China and arrived in South Korea via Manila early Thursday morning.
The incident sparked a diplomatic row between Beijing and Tokyo that continues to simmer.
On May 20, Brownback and Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts introduced a resolution addressing concerns about the 100,000 to 300,000 North Koreans residing in northern China as well as asking for the immediate release of the five North Koreans.
“Today we are shining a light on the Chinese government’s policy of detaining and returning asylum seekers and other desperate North Koreans,” Brownback said at the news conference. “It’s time for this to stop in North Korea.”
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