No North Korean defectors in China, foreign ministry says

BEIJING (Reuters) -There are no “so-called defectors” in China, a spokesperson for its foreign ministry said on Thursday, responding to a query about a report that the country had deported North Korean defectors.

The remarks came after South Korean news agency Yonhap said on Wednesday that China sent back about 600 North Korean defectors this week, despite repeated calls from Seoul against forced repatriation.

Speaking about people from North Korea who entered illegally for economic reasons, China had always handled the issue according to law, the ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, said.

“China has always maintained a responsible attitude, and dealt with them properly,” Wang told a regular press meeting.

Such actions were in line with the principles of domestic and international law and humanitarianism, he added.

In response to media reports about the deportation of some North Korean defectors, South Korea’s foreign ministry said it maintained discussions with China to stop them from being sent home against their will.

“The government will continue to make diplomatic efforts to protect North Korean defectors,” the ministry told Reuters in a statement, adding that it was working to verify the reports.

(Reporting by Andrew Hayley; additional reporting by Hyunsu Yim in Seoul; Writing by Bernard Orr and Liz Lee; Editing by Christian Schmollinger and Clarence Fernandez)