• Kyodo

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The foreign ministers of Japan and China have agreed to work on a bilateral consular treaty to avoid diplomatic conflicts such as the row triggered by China’s removal of five North Korean asylum seekers from a Japanese consulate last month, Japanese officials said.

The agreement, reached Wednesday, is seen as the de facto end to the row, which strained bilateral ties and embarrassed both countries through widespread media coverage of the incident.

During their talks, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi expressed hope to her Chinese counterpart, Tang Jiaxuan, that the Chinese government will treat North Koreans who have fled their country for China in a humanitarian way based on international law.

The consular pact, the details of which have yet to be ironed out, is expected to prevent the kind of problem that arose when Chinese police entered the Japanese Consulate General in Shenyang, northeastern China, and seized five North Koreans who had dashed into the compound.

Japan claims that China violated the Vienna Convention on consular relations because its police entered the consulate without permission. China insists the police received approval to enter the compound.

The row was partially resolved when Beijing allowed the five North Koreans to fly to South Korea via the Philippines on May 23 after two weeks of detention. During that time, Japan put its allegations regarding the police on the back burner and urged China to take a humanitarian stand and send them to a third country.

Several North Koreans have tried to enter foreign diplomatic compounds in China to seek asylum only to be captured by police, even while inside.

Japan and many other members of the international community have been urging China not to repatriate the asylum seekers to North Korea.

Kawaguchi and Tang were in Cha-am for the inaugural Asia Cooperation Dialogue forum, a new stage for promoting regional cooperation among East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.

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