Schriver urges Beijing to ease up on North Korean refugees

WASHINGTON, July 15, 2003--China should join its neighbors in condemning the detention of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Randy Schriver told Radio Free Asia (RFA). Schriver also urged Beijing to improve its treatment of North Korean refugees who have fled to China.

Southeast Asian countries have taken �the unprecedented step of criticizing a fellow member of the ASEAN Regional Forum when they were critical of the regime in Burma,� Schriver said, adding that Japan had curbed aid to the military-run country. �That leaves China isolated,� he said in an interview.

�China alone has sustained its policies in light of what recently occurred there, the tragic attack. China is missing an opportunity in my view, and I think in the view of the United States government, if they don�t join with the rest of the region and the rest of the international community to put whatever pressure we can on the regime there, to free Aung San Suu Kyi and allow the people a greater degree of freedom and political participation,� Schriver added.

�China is going to make its own decisions based on its own interests. We know that,� he said. But they�re increasingly isolated, and again I think they�re missing an opportunity if they don�t use some of their leverage and pressure to change what�s going on in Burma.�

The issue of up to 300,000 North Korean refugees in China �is raised at almost every level� of bilateral talks between Washington and Beijing, Schriver said. �Our great hope is that the Chinese will do more to address the refugee situation in Northern China across the border from North Korea.�

On North Korean refugees, he urged Beijing to let the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) screen North Koreans in China to determine whether they might qualify for international resettlement. He also called on China to loosen curbs on NGOs on the Chinese-North Korean border to help those crossing out of North Korea.

�I think China wishes it didn�t have this problem, and I think it�s very conflicted,� he said. �They know they�re under some criticism from the United States. They�re certainly under criticism from the United States Congress and other interested parties. But I think that they�re conflicted in that they�re reluctant to do things to make northern China look like an attractive place for a North Korean refugee to go.�

�They are concerned about the problems and challenges associated with a large flood of refugees. While we can be sympathetic to that challenge dealing with large numbers, unfortunately the people are suffering greatly while China resists doing the things that it should do to help these people,� Schriver said.

The U.S House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to tighten economic sanctions on Burma following its latest suppression of democracy and detention of opposition leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. The Senate has already approved a similar measure, and U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to sign the bill into law after they agree on a combined version.

The military seized power in 1988 and stepped in to void the 1990 elections that would have given power to Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy. Suu Kyi was under house arrest from 1989 to 1995 and again for 19 months before her release in May 2002.

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content. #####


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