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(LEAD) Arrest warrants issued for 4 college students for breaking into U.S. envoy's residence

Diplomacy 22:01 October 21, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout)

SEOUL, Oct. 21 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court issued warrants for the arrests of four college students on Monday on charges of breaking into the U.S. ambassador's residence.

Seventeen members of a progressive college student group used ladders to climb over the wall of the residence of U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris in central Seoul on Friday.

After reviewing the results of a preliminary probe, prosecutors formally requested the court permit the arrest of seven of them.

The Seoul Central District Court approved prosecutors' request to issue the warrants, citing the possibility of the four students fleeing and destroying evidence.

The court declined to issue the warrants for the other three.

All 17 students were quickly taken to police stations, with law enforcement initially seeking arrest warrants for nine of them. They were protesting Washington's call for Seoul to sharply raise its share of the cost for the upkeep of the 28,500-strong U.S. troops in South Korea.

At the time of the break-in, the residence was vacant, as Amb. Harris and his wife were attending a reception hosted by President Moon Jae-in at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.

Seoul and Washington plan to hold another round of negotiations this week on how much Seoul will pay next year and beyond for the stationing of American troops on South Korean soil.

Media reports have said Washington wants South Korea to pay US$5 billion under next year's cost-sharing deal, up from 1.04 trillion won ($883 million) this year.

The U.S. Embassy urged South Korea to strengthen its efforts to protect all diplomatic missions. It voiced "strong concern" that the break-in was the second illegal entry into the ambassador's residential compound in 13 months.

Members of a progressive association of South Korean university students stage a protest inside the residence of U.S. Ambassador Harry Harris in Seoul on Oct. 18, 2019, in this photo captured from the group's Facebook account. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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