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A Japanese man who has fled North Korea and a woman claiming to be his sister were put under protection of the Japanese Consulate General in Shenyang, northeastern China, on Tuesday.

“We are shielding them from the viewpoint of protecting Japanese nationals and are confirming the woman’s identity,” government spokesman Yasuo Fukuda told a regularly scheduled news conference. “We have asked the Chinese government for cooperation.”

According to Fukuda, a consulate staff member met the two at 6:27 a.m. local time at North Shenyang Station and took them to the consulate 10 minutes later.

In Beijing, China said it has received from Japan information about an asylum seeker and is aware the person holds Japanese citizenship.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said China “will handle it appropriately according to domestic laws, international laws and humanitarianism principles.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuda said Tokyo will decide whether to allow her to come to Japan after she is confirmed as being Japanese.

Foreign Ministry officials said that with confirmation the government will consult with Chinese authorities about the woman’s repatriation to Japan.

About 93,000 people, including Japanese spouses and their children, went to North Korea under a repatriation program between 1959 and 1984.

Some of the Japanese spouses and their children have fled North Korea and dozens have been repatriated to Japan.

A Japanese woman who fled North Korea after moving there under the repatriation program with her husband returned to Japan in January, and another followed in March, accompanied by her daughter.

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