President Lee Myung-bak is expected to urge Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi when they meet at Cheong Wa Dae on Friday to stop repatriating North Korean refugees. A high-ranking official at the presidential office on Thursday said Lee "plans to address the North Korean defector issue at the meeting," saying that repatriating them against their will is out of line with humanitarian principles.
"Our position is to cooperate on matters that require bilateral cooperation but confidently express our views when necessary, on issues like the human rights of North Korean defectors and illegal fishing in Korean territorial waters by Chinese fishermen."
Yang starts his visit by meeting his South Korean counterpart Kim Sung-hwan to discuss the agenda for the South Korea-China summit on the sidelines of the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit at the end of this month, negotiations for Korea-China FTA, and resumption of six-party talks on the denuclearization of North Korea.
Diplomats in Seoul believe that Yang's visit partly aims to reason with South Korea about the repatriation of the North Koreans, who China insists are not defectors but merely involved in illegal cross-border business.