- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 28, 2002

BEIJING Two North Koreans were reported en route to another country yesterday after entering a tightly guarded U.S. Embassy compound, becoming the latest asylum-seekers to test Beijing's agreement with Pyongyang to repatriate them.
The pair's entry into the American compound on Friday came a day after an asylum bid at the German Embassy in Beijing by another North Korean, who was bound for the Philippines last night. The two at the U.S. Embassy have been accepted for resettlement in another country, U.S. officials said.
"As far as we know, the two North Koreans left the American Embassy in Beijing this morning for a third country," a South Korean Foreign Ministry official in Seoul said on the condition of anonymity. "If they wish to come to South Korea, our government will accept them."
A U.S. Embassy official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, would not identify the third country but said it was not the United States.
The official said the U.S. Embassy had worked with the Chinese government to find a solution and thanked Beijing for its "constructive response." China's Foreign Ministry had no immediate comment but said yesterday it was looking into both the German and U.S. Embassy incidents.
The two incidents come six weeks after 25 North Koreans embarrassed China's communist government by rushing into the Spanish Embassy and asking to go to South Korea. They were allowed to leave a day later, traveling to the South via the Philippines.
Such asylum requests have caused diplomatic dilemmas for the Chinese government. China has a treaty requiring it to send North Koreans home but risks international criticism if it does.
Thousands of North Koreans have fled famine and repression in their isolated, hard-line Communist dictatorship. Scores have made their way to rival South Korea. Thousands more are believed to be living in hiding in China's northeast.
The U.S. Embassy official gave no information on how the two entered the compound. The American Embassy compounds in Beijing are heavily guarded by both American forces and Chinese military police.
In Washington, a State Department official said the North Koreans were not government officials but would not otherwise identify them. The official said the United States has considered consistently that North Koreans seeking asylum should not be sent home because they could face persecution.
The pair's arrival at the American Embassy came less than a day after a North Korean entered the German Embassy, about a mile north of the U.S. compounds, and asked for asylum there.
Philippine officials said yesterday that the asylum-seeker at the German Embassy would be allowed passage through their country on humanitarian grounds. They identified him as Hae Jon, 24.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Victor Licaros said the North Korean was expected to arrive at Manila's airport last night.
Mr. Licaros could provide no further details on the defector or where he would end up. North Korean asylum-seekers often are resettled in South Korea.
Norbert Vollertsen, a German doctor who helped organize the Spanish Embassy asylum bid, said then that more asylum attempts were planned.
In e-mail messages sent Friday and yesterday to news organizations, he hinted again of further action, saying: "More North Korean refugees are on their way."

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