HONG KONG -- The latest dispute between South Korea and China, in which more than 20 North Koreans sought asylum in Seoul's embassy, does no credit to either country. Fortunately, the meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan and South Korean Foreign Minister Choi Sung Hong on June 19 appears to have paved the way to a resolution. But such incidents are sure to continue to arise. What is needed is an international consensus on how such asylum-seekers should be handled in the future.

The first Asia Cooperation Dialogue, sponsored by Thailand, also provided an opportunity for the Chinese minister to meet with his Japanese counterpart, Yoriko Kawaguchi. The Chinese official proposed that the two countries sign a bilateral consular treaty to avoid conflicts such as the one last month, when Chinese policemen entered the Japanese consulate in Shenyang to remove North Korean asylum-seekers.

The Chinese may well see such consular treaties as a way to halt the current spate of incidents in which dozens of North Korean asylum-seekers have sought refuge in diplomatic compounds in China. They wish Japan and South Korea, and indeed all other countries, to agree not to give shelter to such "intruders," but it is doubtful if such a proposal will be acceptable to the international community at large.