5 Apr 2012

Defectors allowed into South Korea

4:55 am on 5 April 2012

China is reported to have allowed five North Korean defectors to travel on to South Korea, a move that appears to differ from Beijing's normal policy.

China, which is Pyongyang's main diplomatic ally, normally sends defectors back to North Korea, where human rights groups say they face harsh punishment.

South Korean media say some of the defectors have been stranded at the country's embassy in Beijing for three years.

The Yonhap news agency said that the group arrived in Seoul on Sunday. Three of the five were relatives of a South Korean soldier captured during the 1950-53 Korean War.

There has been no formal government comment on the group's arrival.