SEOUL, March 15 Chinese authorities have
arrested two South Korean Christian pastors, accusing them of
helping to smuggle North Korean defectors out of China, the
Yonhap news agency said on Wednesday.
The arrests come amid tension between South Korea and China
over the latter's vociferous objections to the deployment in
South Korea of a U.S. missile defense system that China says
will destabilise the balance of security in the region.
South Korea and the United States say the Terminal High
Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system is aimed solely at
defending the South against a growing North Korean missile
But China fears the system's powerful radar will be able to
probe deep into its territory and undermine its security.
Yonhap, citing a South Korean missionary group, said one of
the pastors was arrested with his wife last month as they tried
to board a flight for South Korea in China's eastern city of
The other was arrested at a hotel in the northeastern city
of Qinhuangdao, Yonhap said, citing the leader of a South Korean
group called Justice for North Korea, but without saying when.
The wives of the two had been released but the pastors
remained under arrest, the news agency said.
The missionary group did not mention the reported detentions
on its website and it was not immediately possible to contact
South Korea's foreign ministry could not immediately be
reached for comment. China's foreign mnistry did not immediately
respond to a request for comment.
This year, China expelled 32 South Korean missionaries based
in the northeastern Yanji region bordering North Korea, and
separately arrested four men, including a South Korean national,
China has a policy of sending back illegal entrants from
North Korea, whom it considers economic migrants.
It has stepped up pressure on companies doing business with,
and in, South Korea, but has not directly said it was targeting
South Korean firms in retaliation for the deployment of the
missile system, set to be installed in coming months.
(Reporting by Jack Kim; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard
in BEIJING; Editing by Robert Birsel and Clarence Fernandez)