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Talks continue on N. Korean asylum seekers

Chinese police place extra security outside the German diplomatic compound
Chinese police place extra security outside the German diplomatic compound  

BEIJING, China (CNN) -- German diplomats in Beijing have been holding talks with officials from the Chinese foreign ministry in a bid to resolve the fate of 15 North Koreans who have taken refuge inside the German embassy compound.

The group entered the compound Tuesday, scaling the perimeter wall before basing themselves inside a German-run school in the compound.

An embassy spokesman said the 15 asylum seekers, who were calm and cooperative, were being looked after by embassy staff.

More than 80 North Koreans, including the 15 in the latest incident, have sought asylum through embassies in Beijing this year.

On Wednesday a German refugee activist e-mailed Beijing-based journalists, saying the 15 North Koreans had spent two nights on the streets of Beijing and dodged police before getting inside the German compound.

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Meanwhile, a diplomatic source at the South Korean embassy told CNN there are "a few" North Korean asylum seekers in that embassy as well.

Other reports said some 20 individuals were waiting in the South Korean embassy and preparing to leave, likely to the Philippines and then onward to Seoul.

The time of their departure and destination could not be independently confirmed.

Illegal migrants

The asylum seekers scaled a perimeter wall to enter the compound Tuesday afternoon
The asylum seekers scaled a perimeter wall to enter the compound Tuesday afternoon  

A steady stream of asylum seekers have been moving through the South Korean embassy in recent weeks with the cooperation of Chinese authorities.

Beijing officially regards North Korean asylum seekers as illegal economic migrants and is bound by treaty with Pyongyang to return them.

However, faced with international condemnation if it hands them back to North Korea, Beijing has adopted a quiet, unofficial policy of letting them exit China.

While there is no sign that Beijing's official policy is about to change, officials have recently emphasized the humanitarian needs of the refugees.

At the same time Beijing has accused foreign activists and religious groups operating underground inside China of helping the North Koreans to break Chinese law.

One such activist, a German named Norbert Vollertsen, has for the past several months dedicated himself to helping organize mass asylum bids through embassies in Beijing.

'Terror regime'

He told CNN Wednesday that the reason he was taking this action was to bring down the communist leadership North Korea.

He said North Korea was "a huge concentration camp" and labeled the North Korean government "a terror regime."

Meanwhile Chinese police have blanketed Beijing's embassy districts on the lookout for more defectors.

There have been several incidents of Chinese security agents tackling and detaining North Koreans who fail to reach the safety of diplomatic missions.

Some 12 North Koreans scrambled over the walls of another diplomatic compound Monday and were tackled and detained by Chinese police as they tried to reach the Ecuadorian Embassy.

Chinese agents dragged several of the North Koreans away and roughed up foreign journalists covering the event.




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