China lets N Koreans seek US refuge

AFP , SEOUL

Wed, Jul 26, 2006 - Page 4

China has for the first time allowed North Korean defectors to seek asylum in the US, South Korean newspapers said yesterday.

Three defectors left for the US on Saturday, the Chosun daily and other newspapers said. They were among four North Korean refugees who broke into a US consulate in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang in May.

The fourth refugee, who had worked for a North Korean security organization, is still at the US mission, the Yonhap news agency said.

It marked the first time China has allowed North Korean defectors to seek asylum in the US, Yonhap said.

Beijing had previously allowed North Korean defectors in high-profile cases to seek asylum in other countries, mostly in South Korea, but only after transiting through a third country, in an attempt to deflect North Korean criticism away from China.