Japan and China appear ready to discuss the transfer to Japan of a Japanese woman and her daughter who escaped from North Korea.

Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi told reporters at a Tokyo hotel Saturday that Japan needs to address the issue from a “humanitarian standpoint and with a view to protecting Japanese nationals overseas.”

She confirmed that the pair, whose identities Japanese authorities have yet to verify, had sought refuge at the Japanese Consulate General in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang.

“It appears so,” Kawaguchi said when asked about the mother and daughter.

In Beijing, Japanese government sources said Saturday that the two are seeking refuge together and apparently hope to travel to Japan. The woman is believed to have settled in North Korea with her North Korean husband.

The two phoned the consulate while in hiding in China with the support of a Japanese nongovernmental organization, the sources said.

Another Japanese woman, aged 64, was recently repatriated to Japan after escaping to China from North Korea. She had also been granted refuge at the Japanese Consulate General in Shenyang.

About 1,800 Japanese women married pro-Pyongyang Koreans living in Japan and settled in North Korea after 1959 under a repatriation program.

Some of these women have fled the Stalinist state and dozens have been repatriated to Japan.

The Chinese government considers the women illegal residents but is expected to allow them to travel to Japan after being certified as Japanese nationals.

The repatriation of the 64-year-old woman last month made headlines after news reports said a group involved in helping North Korean refugees had held her captive and sought a ransom from the Japanese government.

Until then, the repatriation of Japanese from North Korea had been conducted without publicity.

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