Beijing, June 20: China today hinted it might be
closer to allowing 20 North Koreans sheltering in the south
Korean consulate in Beijing to leave, saying any solution
would "conform to the interests" of the refugees.
"I believe the handling of the issue will conform to the
interests of these people," foreign ministry spokesman Liu
Jianchao told reporters when asked about progress on the North Koreans' case.
However he said no solution had been found yet.
"China and South Korea have held many negotiations, but
the two sides haven't reached consensus up to now. The two
sides will continue to be in contact," Liu said.
The apparent softening of Beijing's tough stance on the
issue came a day after China's Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan
discussed the matter with his South Korean counterpart Choi
They met on the sidelines of the Asia Cooperation
Dialogue Conference, held this week in the Thai resort of
Cha-Am, the state Xinhua news agency said.
Tang told Choi that it was important for both countries
to "remain calm, exercise restraint and hold correct
attitudes," Xinhua said.
Tang said both sides should continue discussions to solve
the problem at an early date and prevent the recurrence of
similar incidents, Xinhua said.
The agency added that tang hoped to get across to South
Korea that China would not allow foreign diplomatic
institutions in china to serve as channels for illegal entry
and exit, while adding that he hoped bilateral relations
would not be affected.