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Saturday, 16 March, 2002, 07:23 GMT
N Koreans wait to leave Philippines
Chinese airport security guards watch as the Koreans head for their flight to the Philippines
China moved quickly to defuse the situation
The 25 North Koreans who made a dramatic bid for asylum at Beijing's Spanish Embassy on Thursday are now in the Philippines awaiting a flight to South Korea.

A Philippine official said the group would leave for South Korea on Monday after spending the weekend at a safe house.


They are a little stressed out because of the experience they are going through

Roilo Golez
Philippine national security adviser

Journalists have not been allowed to see the North Koreans since they arrived in Manila on Friday after the Chinese authorities allowed them to leave.

The group had forced their way into the embassy and threatened to commit suicide if China tried to send them back home.

Philippine National Security Adviser Roilo Golez said the asylum-seekers would stay 72 hours in transit in the country.

He said that the 13 men and 12 women, who are aged from about 14 to 52, were "a little stressed out".

The group pushes into the Spanish embassy
The group pushed its way past the embassy guards

"They have been taken to an undisclosed but very secure place," he added.

Since their arrival in Manila, the asylum-seekers have met the Spanish ambassador.

Spain has been liaising with Philippine and South Korean diplomats in Beijing.

A Korean Air flight is due to bring the 25 to South Korea on Monday, the French news agency AFP reports.

Delicate issue

Our correspondent in Beijing, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says the Chinese Government moved with remarkable speed to end a potentially embarrassing situation.

The danger for Beijing is that acting in this way will encourage more North Koreans to try to do the same.

There are believed to be up to 300,000 North Korean refugees living inside northeast China.

Some activists say they are preparing fresh attempts to get more refugees into other foreign embassies in Beijing.

The Philippines has diplomatic relations with both Koreas and it has more than once allowed itself to be used as a staging post for North Korean defectors who wish to go to South Korea.

Defection rates
2001 - 583
2000 - 312
1999 - 148
Source: NIS

But China has an agreement with Pyongyang to return fleeing North Koreans, and many have previously been sent home.

However, seven members of a North Korean family were allowed to leave for South Korea - via a third country - last year after they had sought refuge in a United Nations office in Beijing.

The North Koreans involved in the latest incident pushed past helpless guards outside the Spanish Embassy gates on Thursday morning.

A brief statement released on behalf of the group said they had been forced to flee North Korea in desperation. Many of those in the group had fled to China before, but were forcibly repatriated.

They said they had suffered imprisonment and torture in North Korea.

A statement passed to reporters said they were ordinary farmers and workers.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield Hayes
"The Chinese Government has resolved this with unusual speed"
See also:

14 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Koreans' embassy dash
13 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
US offers N Korea 'unconditional' talks
03 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
'Record numbers' defect to S Korea
26 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
China's North Koreans in hiding
14 Nov 01 | Asia-Pacific
Korean talks collapse
15 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
Former spies riot in South Korea
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