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Thursday, 5 September, 2002, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Deal reached on Korean refugees
North Korean asylum seekers
The group have spent two nights at the school
Chinese officials say they have reached agreement with Germany over what to do with 15 North Koreans who sought refuge in the German embassy school in Beijing.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Kong Quan did not specify what action would be taken, but German officials have described it as a "positive conclusion".


China and Germany have reached consensus on the proper settlement of the issue and it is being implemented

Kong Quan, Foreign Ministry spokesman
In similar cases, China has allowed North Korean asylum seekers to go to South Korea via a third country.

The BBC correspondent in Beijing, Rupert Wingfield Hayes, says the invasion of the school on Tuesday shows that defectors are making increasingly risky attempts to claim asylum, because of tighter security around foreign missions.

Our correspondent says China is determined to halt these asylum attempts, but without a change in the desperate situation faced by North Koreans at home, they look likely to continue.

Sovereignty row

"China and Germany have reached consensus on the proper settlement of the issue and it is being implemented," Mr Kong told a news conference.

Chinese police officer outside school
The police did not attempt to enter the compound

A German embassy official added: "We were always hopeful that the Chinese side would be willing to come to a positive conclusion."

"I cannot comment any further."

There had been confusion over whether the compound housing the school was regarded as German or Chinese territory.

As a result, Chinese police had refrained from entering the compound to arrest the North Koreans.

It marks a change from June, when Chinese police entered the South Korean embassy to remove a North Korean asylum seeker, sparking outcry in the South.

Chinese police outside the Ecuador embassy
Security has been beefed up around embassies

In virtually every other case Beijing has allowed asylum seekers to leave for South Korea, opting to risk relations with close ally Pyongyang rather than attract international criticism for sending refugees back to the North.

Since March at least 80 North Korean asylum seekers have entered foreign embassies in the Chinese capital.

The BBC's Adam Brookes in Beijing said this recent spate of asylum bids are being facilitated by South Korean and foreign activists who are keen to draw the world's attention to the plight of the starving and repressed in North Korea.

Tens of thousands of others have slipped over land borders to China during recent years, where they are holed up in safe houses in the North.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"Most countries would consider these people refugees but not China"

Nuclear tensions

Inside North Korea

Divided peninsula

TALKING POINT
See also:

04 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
03 Sep 02 | Asia-Pacific
21 Aug 02 | Asia-Pacific
15 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
20 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
14 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
25 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 May 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
13 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
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