BEIJING, June 3 (Yonhap) -- China's foreign ministry said Monday that no country had asked Beijing not to repatriate a group of nine young North Korean defectors to their home country, contrary to remarks made by South Korean officials that they appealed to China on behalf of the defectors.
The nine North Koreans were rounded up in Laos on May 10 for border trespassing. Earlier last week, they were expelled to China, from which they were deported to their communist home country where they are certain to face harsh punishment, Seoul officials said.
South Korean officials have said they asked both Laos and China not to repatriate the North Korean defectors, but the plea was not successful.
However, China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters on Monday that the Chinese government had not received any request for cooperation with regard to the North Koreans.
If Hong's remarks are true, the South Korean government will face more criticism as Seoul has been under fire for failing in its duty to protect North Korean defectors.
Hong confirmed that the North Korean defectors were deported to China on May 27 with passports and visas and returned to North Korea last Tuesday.
It was the first time that China officially clarified its stance on North Korean defectors.
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