China could pull out all Chinese students studying in North Korea and terminate an exchange program dating back two decades if tensions mount further after Pyongyang's latest missile launch, according to the South China Morning Post on Friday.
Li Gang, who oversees the student exchange program at the China Scholarship Council, told the newspaper that some 60 Chinese students who are studying languages in North Korea are returning home either this or next month.
But Li added the students are leaving because they have completed their seven-month exchange program and the move is not directly related to the latest missile test.
"We have been informed about the missile test, and we are concerned," he said. "If the intelligence assessment suggests a high risk of military conflict, we will immediately contact the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang and ask them to get our students out of the country as fast as they can."
The student exchange program has never yet been affected by tensions along the border. Both countries send around 60 students to the other around March and April every year, and the host country pays for their upkeep.
The SCMP said China has had a tough time filling up its quota of students for the 2018 program and has so far recruited only a single student.
One official at Nanjing University said, "I have a stack of application forms over my desk, none going to North Korea."
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