March 2 (UPI) -- China is welcoming news of South Korea plans to send a special envoy to Pyongyang, calling it a move that will "help ease the situation" on the Korean peninsula.
Beijing's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Friday at a regular press briefing the Chinese government supports the decision, Yonhap reported.
"With the opportunity that came with the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, positive movements have emerged in inter-Korea relations," Hua said. "China welcomes and encourages South Korea's decision to send a special envoy to North Korea, and also welcomes positive attitudes between the United States and North Korea toward bilateral talks."
Hua added the international community should "continue to support and encourage" the latest developments, and inter-Korea talks should lead to "full-fledged dialogue" between Washington and Pyongyang.
"The essence of the Korean Peninsula issue is security and not sanctions, so dialogue is a fundamental solution to the security concerns of each country and the problem of the Korean peninsula," the spokeswoman said, adding the suspension of U.S.-South Korea joint exercises will ease tensions.
Beijing did not address issues within its borders regarding the critical issue of North Korean refugees, however.
North Koreans who flee their country continue to be arrested, and the Chinese policy is a violation of international law, according to Seoul-based Lawyers for Human Rights and Unification of Korea.
The group told reporters Friday the South Korean government should actively address the issue with China.
China has so far repatriated between 50,000 to 100,000 defectors annually, the group said.
The North Koreans are sent back without undergoing an asylum process, although China is a signatory to the U.N. Refugee Convention.
South Korean attorney Kim Tae-hoon said Seoul has yet to address the issue with Beijing in favor of discussing military matters that include the deployment of a U.S. THAAD battery and joint exercises.