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China says Koreas should resolve defection

February 15, 1997
Web posted at: 1:56 p.m. EST (1356 GMT)

BEIJING (CNN) -- China distanced itself Saturday from the defection of a senior North Korean official to South Korea, saying the two Koreas should resolve the crisis.

Hwang Jang Yop, a Central Committee member of North Korea's ruling Worker's Party, and his aide have been holed up in the South Korean Embassy in Beijing since Wednesday.

China Foreign Ministry spokesman Guo Chongli said although the embassy is located in Beijing, it is technically on South Korean soil.

Because of this, "talks (should) directly involve North Korea and South Korea," Guo said.

Guo, speaking to reporters in Singapore, did not say whether China wanted the two Koreas to hold face-to-face talks, which could delay any resolution of the crisis, given the tensions between the Cold War-era rivals.

Security

North Korea has refused to accept news of the defection, contending the two men were kidnapped.

Meanwhile, China tightened security Saturday around the consulate housing Hwang. Helmeted Chinese officers with AK-47 rifles patrolled streets surrounding the building as a North Korean delegation arrived in Beijing, presumably to try to get him back.

Under a 1978 treaty, China is required to return any North Koreans found in China without visas or other valid travel documents. That presumably would not apply to Hwang and his aide who defected with him.

A founder of Communist North Korea and close associate of President Kim Jong Il, Hwang is the highest-ranking official to ever defect to the South.

Hwang, 72, defected with Kim Duk Hong, 59, identified by Seoul as the president of a North Korean trading firm in Beijing. The two had stopped in Beijing on their way home from a North Korean-sponsored international seminar in Japan.

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