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DPRK detains US citizen for breaches

By Jack Kim in Seoul | China Daily | Updated: 2014-06-07 07:20

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea said on Friday it had detained a US tourist for entering the country in April and breaking the law, bringing the number of US citizens held by Pyongyang to three.

A number of US citizens have been held in recent years by Pyongyang.

The DPRK periodically accuses the United States of military hostility and conspiracy to overthrow its leadership. The two states have been locked in a tense diplomatic conflict over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs.

The latest US citizen to be held was being questioned by DPRK authorities for conduct inappropriate to the purpose of his visit as a tourist, DPRK media reported on Friday.

Pyongyang's KCNA news agency named the US citizen as Jeffrey Edward Fowle and said he entered the country on April 29. It gave no further details.

A US State Department official said Washington was aware of reports that a third US citizen had been detained. "There is no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of US citizens abroad," the official said, adding no further information was available.

Earlier on Friday, Japan's Kyodo news agency said the DPRK had detained a US citizen in mid-May.

Kyodo cited unidentified diplomatic sources as saying the US citizen was detained just before he was to leave the DPRK, for having left a Bible in his hotel.

Two other US citizens are currently being held by the DPRK, arrested after arriving on tourist visas and accused of crimes against the state. Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae has been in custody for 18 months and a second man has been held since April.

In May, the US State Department issued an advisory urging its nationals not to travel to because of the "risk of arbitrary arrest and detention" even while holding valid visas.

"Foreign visitors to (the DPRK) may be arrested, detained, or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside(the DPRK)," it said.

Veteran released

The DPRK has detained and then released other US citizens in the past year, including Korean War veteran Merrill E. Newman, whom it expelled after holding him for more than a month accusing him of war crimes.

In April, the DPRK said it was holding a US citizen named Matthew Todd Miller who had made "a gross violation of its legal order" after entering the country on a tourist visa.

He tore up his visa and demanded asylum, KCNA said in April.


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