BEIJING - China rejected on Thursday claims by two U.S. journalists that they were seized on Chinese territory before being dragged into North Korea and jailed there for illegal entry into the reclusive state.
The journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee said in an article in the Los Angeles Times (http:/link.reuters.com/cug44d) that they strayed into North Korean territory in March when visiting a frozen river that marked the border with China.
They said they rushed back to the Chinese side but North Korean guards chased them and dragged them into North Korea.
But the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu rejected their account.
According to the understanding of the relevant (Chinese) departments, they did not find the situation as you described it, she told reporters in answer to a question about the two U.S. journalists' account.
Jiang deflected repeated questions about how the two were seized, telling them that her meaning was plain enough.
She did not give details of how China reached its conclusions, except to say that the investigation was carried out by local authorities on the border.
The pair were released in early August when former U.S. President Bill Clinton traveled to Pyongyang, where he met leader Kim Jong-il and secured their freedom.
China's general reticence about the two U.S. journalists' case reflects its close but brittle ties with North Korea.
Beijing is the closest Pyongyang has to a diplomatic ally, and it provides the North with much-needed food and oil. But China also condemned North Korea's second ever nuclear test on May 25, and backed tighter sanctions intended to press the North to return to nuclear disarmament talks.
The U.S. special envoy on the North Korean nuclear dispute, Stephen Bosworth, will be in Beijing on Thursday and Friday for talks before going to other regional capitals.
North Korea's Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Yong-il is also visiting China. But Bosworth has no plans to meet North Korean officials during his trip, the U.S. State Department has said.
(Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Alex Richardson)