[EDITORIALS]An outrage in Beijing

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[EDITORIALS]An outrage in Beijing

Chinese security police chased two North Korean asylum-seekers who succeeded in entering the South Korean Consulate in Beijing on Thursday and proceeded to drag one of them away and hold him. In the process of the detainment, Chinese police used violence against South Korean diplomats at the mission who were protesting the act.

The Chinese action is an outrage that cannot be justified in any way under the code of diplomatic conduct. The Chinese government should apologize for the intrusion into our consulate, a foreign mission and beyond its jurisdiction, and for taking custody of people who were under our protection. China should hand over the North Korean in observance of international law. China should also punish the officials involved.

The incident marks the first physical confrontation between Korea and China over the issue of defectors. The incident has the potential to raise regional tensions in Northeast Asia.

We are particularly concerned that the incident comes immediately after China's demand to hand over 17 defectors holed up in the Korean Consulate in Beijing, and similar demands China has extended to diplomatic missions of other countries.

The Chinese action is in violation of the Geneva Convention that recognizes diplomatic immunity of foreign missions as extraterritorial rights. It is also unacceptable on the grounds of human rights principles. China's position in the international community is bound to suffer from the incident.

After 25 North Korean defectors rushed into the Spanish Embassy in Beijing in March, China has shown a more practical response. It was obviously founded on international law and human rights principles when China deported the defectors to what amounts to a third country, South Korea. That act also signaled that China would not be bound by the special relationship it has with North Korea.

The sudden reversal of China's position in Thursday's rash incident is not going to help China's ambition to become a leader of the international community. China's act also goes straight against the spirit of partnership between Korea and China that has been 10 years in the making.

No doubt the change in China's reaction reflects the pressure China is under. Because of its relationship with North Korea, China cannot let South Korean missions become the sure way out for asylum-seekers. Moreover, China cannot let the issue be drawn out any longer. A swift apology for the diplomatic blunder is in order. After that, China must allow the resumption and principles of human rights to proceed.
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