June 17 (UPI) -- The United Nations Special Rapporteur on North Korea human rights said Monday he discussed the issue of detained North Korean defectors in China with South Korean officials.
Tomas Ojea Quintana told Yonhap following a meeting with officials at Seoul's unification ministry the issue of refugees imprisoned in China was raised with a deputy minister.
Quintana is in South Korea for the remainder of the week. Last year, he spoke at a news conference in Seoul, and raised the issue of women's rights in North Korea.
Quintana had said at the time North Koreans are exploited in the name of national development.
On Monday the U.N. official said the number of North Korean defectors arrested has been on the rise; the statement came the same day China said President Xi Jinping will visit Pyongyang for the first time this Thursday and Friday.
Quintana added he and the South Koreans addressed the issue of humanitarian aid to North Korea, and what the "South Korean government should do about it." Earlier this month, Seoul approved a $8 million aid package to the North following claims from Pyongyang the country is battling a severe drought.
North Korea is one of the world's most impoverished countries and its allocation of resources toward nuclear weapons development has been blamed for food and medical shortages.
Assessments of Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program indicate the regime is showing no signs of reducing its stockpile.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said Monday in its annual report North Korea likely retains 20 to 30 nuclear warheads in its stockpile, amid a growing trend of countries increasing their nuclear capacity.
Last year SIPRI's estimate of North Korea's nuclear arsenal was at about 10-20 warheads.