China Yet to Receive Formal Communication From North Korea On Border Reopening
China’s foreign ministry has dispelled speculations regarding North Korea’s decision to reopen its borders to foreigners, stating that it has not received any such communication.
This comes after a report by a Chinese broadcaster, which claimed that North Korea was preparing to lift its three-year-long isolation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The report suggested that the decision was made by the North Korean authorities, however, no further details were provided.
Signs of Reopening and International Visits
Despite the lack of formal communication, North Korea has displayed some indicators of reestablishing international connections.
Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, embarked on a trip to Russia, and North Korean athletes were recently seen participating in the Asian Games held in China.
However, these signs are yet to be backed by an official announcement from North Korea regarding the reopening of its borders.
Three Years of Isolation
North Korea’s decision to close its borders was a response to the global Covid-19 pandemic. The country has maintained this state of isolation for more than three years, being one of the few nations that have strictly adhered to this measure.
The country’s isolation was further deepened due to restrictions on foreign trade, domestic travel, and distribution of food and other essentials within the country. These measures have resulted in serious socio-economic issues, including food insecurity.
Repatriation of North Korean Defectors
Another contentious issue related to North Korea’s closed borders has been the repatriation of North Korean defectors by China.
Even as thousands of North Koreans face severe punishment for fleeing the Kim regime, China continues to identify North Koreans entering its territory as illegal immigrants rather than refugees.
This stance by China has been criticized by human rights advocates, who believe that China should abide by international norms prohibiting forced repatriation.
China’s Obligations under International Law
China ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol in 1982 and is obligated to follow the convention’s core principle of nonrefoulment.
This principle forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country where they would face probable danger.
However, this principle appears to be in conflict with China’s current treatment of North Korean defectors.
Closer Ties between China and North Korea
Amid growing tensions between Beijing and Washington, ties between China and North Korea seem to be strengthening.
The two Asian nations agreed to increase cooperation following a Chinese delegation’s visit to Pyongyang in July. This visit marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War of 1951-53.
There is a pressing need to address the human rights of North Korean defectors in China. These defectors should be recognized as refugees who have the right to receive protection rather than being treated as illegal immigrants.
Furthermore, their rights should be guaranteed according to international norms, and they should be allowed to go to a country of their choosing.
North Korea’s Human Rights Record
North Korea, under the rule of Kim Jong Un, remains one of the most repressive countries in the world. The government does not tolerate pluralism and systematically denies all basic liberties, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, and freedom of religion.
Perceived opponents of the government are often sent to secretive political prison camps, where they face torture, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and forced hard labor.
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