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(LEAD) S. Korean Embassy in China warns against possible N. Korea terror attacks, abduction

All Headlines 16:54 August 29, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more info in last 5 paras)

SEOUL, Aug. 29 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean Embassy in Beijing has warned South Koreans in China about possible terrorist attacks or abduction attempts by North Korea in the wake of the recent defection of a senior diplomat, sources said Monday.

The embassy urged South Korean residents and travelers in China to refrain from visiting the North Korea-China border areas or coming in contact with North Koreans in a message recently conveyed to South Korean expatriate groups and other associated organizations in China, according to the sources.

"Given the recent defection of a high-level North Korean official and North Korea's threats of provocations, there seem to be high possibilities of terrorist attacks and abductions of our citizens," the embassy message said. "South Koreans are advised to pay special attention to their personal safety," it said.

South Koreans in China are also advised to abstain from trips to the border areas and meeting with any suspected North Koreans, the message also said, urging them to constantly check safety information updates from the embassy.

The latest message was the second of its kind which has been issued since a similar warning was made on July 22. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reportedly ordered retaliatory terrorist attacks on South Korea at that time in response to the group defection of 13 North Korean restaurant workers based in China in April.

The second warning was made following the defection of Thae Yong-ho, a minister of the North Korean Embassy in London, and his family to South Korea. Pyongyang blamed Thae's defection on South Korea’s "anti-North Korean smear campaign."

North Korea has reportedly been seeking to dispatch agents to China or Southeast Asian countries as part of malicious operations against South Koreans. Sources said such signs have resurfaced following Thae's defection.

"Threats of North Korea's potential terrorist attacks remain unabated since the safety warning issued by the embassy a month earlier," another source said. "There is a need to maintain a high state of alert in regards to the safety of residents in China because North Korea's recent test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile has driven up the possibility of provocations here."

Related to the risk of terror attacks, South Korea's foreign ministry said in mid-May that the whereabouts of two of six South Korean nationals initially reported as missing remain unaccounted for.

Earlier in the year, an ethnic Korean pastor, who had a reputation for assisting North Korean defectors, was murdered in the northeastern Chinese province of Jilin, with North Korean agents suspected to be involved in the death.

Unification Ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee said in that "North Korea is making threats through its official news outlets and have also unofficially shown sign of making threats." The latest embassy action is a response to outstanding concerns raised, he said.

pbr@yna.co.kr
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