Defector is given Philippines refuge


MANILA - In an operation shrouded in secrecy, the highest North Korean official to flee the Stalinist state flew into the Philippines from China yesterday and was quickly whisked away to a hideaway.

Senior military officials said Mr Hwang Jang-yop, Pyongyang's leading ideologue, who had been sheltering in Seoul's Beijing mission for nearly five weeks, arrived at the former US Clark airbase, near Manila. He then boarded a military helicopter bound for the mountain resort city of Baguio, 200 km north of Manila.

The official Chinese Xinhua news agency said Mr Hwang had left China of his own free will and had gone to an unspecified third country.

Military sources said Mr Hwang could stay in the Philippines for from three days to a week. On Monday, a senior Seoul official said Mr Hwang would stay in a third country "for a considerable period of time" before going to South Korea.