Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS MANILA 000249
DEPT FOR PRM/MESTETSKY, EAP/K, AND EAP/PMBS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PHUM KN KS RP
SUBJECT: NORTH KOREAN REFUGEES IN THE PHILIPPINES
REF: 04 STATE 275820
¶1. (U) North Koreans have access to the same international
protection offered other refugee groups in the Philippines.
The Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia to have
signed the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and to have an
institutionalized regime of refugee protection. The
Department of Justice has a dedicated office (the Refugee
Processing Unit) focused on refugee issues.
¶2. (U) Post has had no experience with North Korean asylum
seekers or refugees. However, standard procedures are in
place to handle potential cases. There are no special
security challenges to handling North Koreans, and sufficient
policy and press guidance exists for this eventuality.
¶3. (SBU) In informal January 11 discussions, Department of
Foreign Affairs’ Director for Northeast Asia Ms. Manina Rueca
told poloff that she personally would welcome USG-funded
humanitarian assistance for North Koreans in the Philippines,
calling such an initiative a “humanitarian gesture.”
However, she reacted coolly to the idea of a US refugee
resettlement program for North Koreans in the Philippines,
calling it “very sensitive.” She cautioned that any
potential program would require extensive discussion and
¶4. (SBU) Rico Salcedo, the officer in charge of the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Manila, told
PolOff separately that the Refugee Processing Unit, to which
the UNHCR provided technical support and served as an
advisor, operated efficiently in adjudicating refugee claims.
Salcedo noted that the GRP’s approach to refugees was
“humanitarian.” North Korean asylum seekers would get
favorable treatment, he stated.
¶5. (SBU) Salcedo observed that the Department of Foreign
Affairs had quietly instituted an agreement with the South
Korean government to facilitate the transit of North Korean
refugees from third countries to South Korea. The volume of
transits had increased significantly during the last two
years, reaching nearly 500 refugees annually, traveling in
groups as large as 60 people.
¶6. (SBU) South Korean Political Counselor Kwon Sae-young
noted to A/DCM and PolOff January 14 that all of the North
Koreans transiting the Philippines to Seoul originated from
China, some of them apparently long-time residents of the
PRC. (Note: Kwon bristled at the use of the word “refugees,”
insisting instead that they be called “displaced persons.”
End note.) Kwon said his government appreciated the
Philippines’ low-key and helpful approach to this issue. He
insisted that none actually entered Manila; they all only
transited the Manila airport using travel documents provided
by the South Korean Embassy in Beijing. He added that there
had never been an incident of a North Korean attempting to
gain access to the South Korean Embassy here.