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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 07:19 GMT 08:19 UK
Japan-China spat over North Koreans
Refugees trying to enter the consulate
Five refugees tried to enter the Japanese consulate
Japan has summoned China's ambassador to Tokyo after Chinese police reportedly forcibly removed two North Korean asylum seekers from a Japanese consulate in north-east China.

I think it is a violation of the Vienna Convention, and that's why we are protesting

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
Japan is demanding that China return the two North Koreans, who were part of a group of five people who tried to rush through the gates of the consulate.

Japanese embassy officials have already issued a statement describing China's actions in Shenyang, 200 kilometres (125 miles) inland from China's border with North Korea, as "extremely problematic and regrettable".

The BBC's correspondent in Beijing says the incident is threatening to turn into a major diplomatic spat.

Any uninvited entry into the consulate by Chinese police would be a serious violation of diplomatic status.

Meanwhile, another North Korean has succeeded in evading guards and entering the US consulate in Shenyang joining others who scaled the compound wall on Wednesday.

The asylum bids are the latest in a series of attempts by North Korean refugees to enter foreign embassies and consulates in China.

Consulate stormed

On Wednesday Japan's Foreign Ministry called in the Chinese ambassador, Wu Dawei, to demand an explanation over the consulate incident.

Three of the five North Koreans who tried to rush into the consulate were caught. According to the Japanese side, Chinese police then entered the consulate uninvited and removed the two who had succeeded in getting through.

Their actions came despite demands by Japanese consular officials that the two Koreans should be left inside the building.

"I think it is a violation of the Vienna Convention, and that's why we are protesting," said Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

But Mr Wu argued that the Chinese police seized the people "as a measure to secure the safety of the consulate" and that China did not consider it violated the convention.

Chinese authorities have increased security around Beijing's foreign missions to prevent further asylum attempts, adding barbed wire and posting extra guards.

Aid groups estimate that between 100,000 and 300,000 North Koreans have fled to north-east China in recent years to escape political repression and famine.

The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"Neither country wants an escalation of the dispute at a time when they're trying to improve difficult relations"
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"This has certainly raised the profile of this issue"
See also:

08 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Korean refugees held in China
14 Mar 02 | Asia-Pacific
N Koreans storm Spanish embassy
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
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