Seoul rejects return of 13 defectors to Pyongyang

Seoul, April 13 (IANS) Seoul on Wednesday rejected Pyongyang’s demand to return 13 of its nationals who are said to have defected to South Korea, the country’s unification ministry said.

Urging Pyongyang to stop unreasonable insistence and threats of provocations, the ministry said in a statement that the group defection of North Korean nationals to South Korea was made in accordance with their free will.

It further called for Pyongyang to give up its nuclear and missile programmes that provide no benefit to the North Korean people.

Pyongyang demanded on Tuesday that Seoul return the 13 North Koreans who had defected to South Korea, saying that the country’s spy agency lured and abducted the 13 individuals who worked at a state-run restaurant in China.

Seoul’s unification ministry last Friday said the group defected to South Korea, marking the first time that a group of North Korean citizens working at the same overseas restaurant fled to South Korea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang on Monday said 13 North Korean nationals entered and left China legally with valid passports last week.

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