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Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi on Thursday removed Kiyoshi Okazaki as Consul General in Shenyang and took punitive action against 11 other officials who failed to deal appropriately with five North Korean asylum-seekers who sought refuge at the consulate two months ago.

Okazaki also faces a one-month pay cut of 20 percent under the National Public Service Law and has been ordered to return to Japan. Deputy Consul Atsushi Nishiyama was also reprimanded and has also been ordered to return to Japan.

“The core of the problem was the lack of a sense of crisis among the staff involved,” Kawaguchi told a news conference Thursday evening. “I apologize to the Japanese public for various inappropriate actions in the handling of the incident.”

On May 8, a North Korean family of five entered the consulate in an attempt to seek refuge but were forcibly removed by Chinese police. They were allowed to leave for South Korea after two weeks of diplomatic wrangling over whether Japanese staff permitted Chinese police to enter and seize the family.

Ambassador to China Koreshige Anami received a “strict reprimand,” the most serious there is under the ministry’s internal ethics code, for failing to instruct consulate staff to object to the actions of the Chinese police. Anami will also take a voluntary one-month pay cut of 20 percent, the minister said.

Okazaki was away from the consulate at the time of the incident, dealing with a plane crash in Dalian. He told consulate staff to report to the Japanese Embassy in Beijing and did not stress to them the significance of the incident.

With Chinese authorities rushing into the compound and forcibly dragging away the asylum-seekers, the incident was widely seen as a violation of the Vienna Convention on consular affairs, which stipulates the inviolability of diplomatic missions.

Beijing denies its officials violated the accord and has repeatedly said consulate staff gave them permission to enter.

Kawaguchi also said that Okazaki should have taken precautionary measures such as keeping the consulate gate closed and clarifying the chain of command in his absence.

Nishiyama, who was away on leave when the incident occurred, was punished because he did not return to the consulate until May 11. Two vice consuls were given “serious warnings.”

Anami reportedly instructed embassy staff during a regular meeting just hours before the incident that any suspicious figures attempting to enter the grounds should be thrown out, leading some members of the Liberal Democratic Party to call for his replacement.

However, his instructions were not considered when deciding his punishment, according to Kawaguchi. The government has said his comments were not problematic.

In addition, Kawaguchi and Vice Foreign Minister Yukio Takeuchi will each take voluntarily pay cuts of 20 percent for one month to take responsibility as heads of the ministry.

To better deal with any such incidents in future, Kawaguchi said the ministry will establish a new post for crisis management under the Foreign Policy Bureau and increase the number of Japanese security staff at overseas missions by 100 over the next five years.

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