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Home > Media Reiews > News Review Last Updated: 14:52 03/09/2007
News Review #31: May 14, 2002

China asylum problem grows

Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE

"China asylum problem grows"

Related Article:
"Japan-China spat over North Koreans"

Related Comments:
"Asylum Case a Matter of Prestige for Japan"
by John de Boer on GLOCOM Platform

The incident of five North Koreans captured in the premises of Japanese Consulate in Shenyang by the Chinese military police has aroused an enormous reaction from Japanese people. There are news commentaries with tough words as if Japan were attacked by China, discussing provocatively the ways to save Japan's interests, and face.

Presently the dispute seems to have boiled down to a single point. It is whether the Chinese Military Police went into the Japanese Consulate with the permission, or not.

"Vienna Convention on Consular Relations" stipulates, in its article 31, that: "The authorities of the receiving State shall not enter that part of the consular premises which is used exclusively for the purpose of the work of the consular post except with the consent of the head of the consular post or of his designee or of the head of the diplomatic mission of the sending State. The consent of the head of the consular post may, however, be assumed in case of fire or other disaster requiring prompt protective action."

In comparison, "Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations", which is a treaty applied to diplomats such as an Ambassadors and his office, Embassy, in its article 22 states that: "The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission."

As can be seen here, there is a slight difference in the language between the two treaties. Though it is not the purpose of this writing to analyze this difference, it seems China could have claimed that they went into the premises because it was a disaster requiring a prompt protective action. They didn't do that, and now they are claiming they had obtained permission from a vice-consul. It is interesting to note that while the diplomatic convention limits the powers to provide such permission only to the head of the mission, the consular convention allows someone other than the chief to provide this.

A naive theory that premises of a foreign envoy are effectively a part of the land of that foreign country and where extraterritoriality is enjoyed is not what modern international relations subscribe to. Facilities for diplomatic use have been provided inviolable status by the host countries because it has been acknowledged through centuries of often bitter experience that it is mutually convenient to do so.

In reality, though, Japan presently denies such a permission to enter the Consulate was given, while China claims it did, and so the argument seems to be at the point of going nowhere.

It is obvious that Japan, and for that matter, China as well, must advocate to protect its rights and powers in a high vocal note, especially in the internationalized world where a fair umpire does not exist, hence often who screams the loudest is heard. At the same time, behind the loudspeakers, a calm reasoning based on mutual benefit must endure.

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