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N. Korea blasts S. Korea for protest over defectors' repatriation
SEOUL, Feb. 24 (Yonhap) -- North Korea denounced South Korea Friday for its recent protest over a group of North Korean defectors facing repatriation from China, claiming the South has no right to interfere in the decisions of sovereign nations.

   A group of 34 North Korean defectors were reportedly rounded up in China earlier this month and now face deportation back to their homeland, where they are feared to face harsh persecution and even execution.

   Seoul is expected to raise the issue at a United Nations meeting next week, while President Lee Myung-bak called on China Wednesday to follow international norms in handling North Korean defectors.

   South Korean human rights activists and lawmakers have staged numerous rallies and protests in recent days demanding China recognize the defectors as refugees and stop their repatriation.

   Earlier in the day, a parliamentary committee adopted a resolution condemning Beijing's actions and urged China to abide by international refugee laws.

   "The South Korean government has recently raised its biggest commotion over 'defectors' in a reckless attempt to internationalize the issue of 'defector repatriation,'" the North's propaganda Web site, Uriminzokkiri, said in a commentary.

   "Taking administrative actions in line with domestic laws and relevant treaties is the rightful activity of sovereign nations and is not up for discussion," it said.

   South Korea has a longstanding policy of accepting any North Korean defectors who wish to live in the South and has repeatedly asked for Beijing's cooperation through bilateral diplomatic channels. China, as North Korea's only major ally and benefactor, is bound by a treaty with the North to repatriate the defectors, seeing them as illegal economic migrants, not refugees.

   hague@yna.co.kr
(END)
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