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China, US near deal on repatriating illegal migrants

Written by: Staff

BEIJING, Apr 4: The United States and China are close to an agreement on repatriating illegal Chinese migrants, the U S security chief said today at the end of a visit that also focused on aviation and ports security.

U S Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said returning illegal immigrants, rather than releasing them on bail, would act as a deterrent.

''If we catch them and release them ... we suggest to people that if they can get across the border they are home free and safe from being returned. We want to send a very different message,'' Chertoff told reporters.

''We've reached a meeting of the minds and a common approach on the issue of repatriation of illegal migrants with China.'' About 39,000 Chinese were illegally in the United States, many of them brought there by people smugglers, Chertoff said.

Chertoff's Asia trip, which also took him to Singapore, Tokyo and Hong Kong, focused on ports and aviation security, with Washington worried that nuclear bombs or radioactive material could be smuggled into its borders in shipping containers.

China and the United States were also near an agreement on air security, Chertoff said, without giving details.

A container security initiative has already begun at some Chinese ports and the two countries are working to deepen relations between their customs officials.

''It's critical for us to have a relationship with China that elevates the security of the movement of those containers, but in a way that doesn't interfere with the process of rapidly moving cargo to the United States,'' Chertoff said.


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