SEOUL: A ranking North Korean embassy official in Beijing has defected, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said Wednesday, while a separate report suggested two embassy staff had sought asylum with the Japanese mission there. If confirmed, it would mark the latest in a recent series of high-profile North Korean defections that some observers see as a sign of growing instability within the leadership in Pyongyang. Yonhap, quoting an anonymous source “familiar with Pyongyang affairs,” said the official — stationed in the Beijing embassy but attached to the North Korean Health Ministry — had disappeared with his family in late September. In a separate report, the South Korean daily, JoongAng Ilbo, said two senior staffers at the North Korean embassy in Beijing had asked for asylum in Japan. Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga however denied that any approach had been made to the Japanese mission. “There’s no truth in the reports that North Korean asylum seekers contacted the Japanese embassy, and we’re not aware of any situation involving North Koreans hoping to defect to Japan,” Suga told a regular press conference.