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N. Korea informs US it is holding second citizen

The US has said it has been formally told by North Korea that it is holding a second US citizen and that authorities are investigating to find out the person's identity.

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AFP - The United States said Friday it has been formally told by North Korea that it is holding a second US citizen and that authorities are investigating to find out the person's identity.

North Korea, which has no diplomatic relations with Washington, informed the United States through its mission to the United Nations in New York, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

But the United States is still unaware of the person's name or the circumstances in which he or she entered the reclusive communist state, he said.

The United States has asked Sweden, which handles US interests in Pyongyang, to look into the case, he said.

"We do not know the identify of the citizen," Crowley said.

"That is obviously why we have already taken steps working through our protecting power, the Swedes, to seek access so we can determine who it is and the circumstances," he said.

The North's official Korean Central News Agency earlier said in a succinct dispatch that authorities had detained an American on Monday for crossing the border and that he was now under investigation.

Crowley said that the United States understands that it was a fresh case and that the report was not referring to Robert Park, another American held in North Korea.

Park, a Christian activist, crossed the border on Christmas Day in an effort to draw attention to human rights concerns in the one-party state.

The detentions came as North Korea defiantly fired live artillery into the sea near its disputed border with the democratic South, despite warnings by both Washington and Seoul that the actions were provocative.

The United States has been trying to restart six-nation talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program.

The North has agreed to restart talks but has insisted that the United States first negotiate on a peace treaty to permanently end the 1950-53 Korean War.

Crowley said that Kurt Campbell, the top US diplomat for East Asia, would head to the region next week, spending Monday and Tuesday in Tokyo and then visiting Seoul for two days.

The assistant secretary of state is expected to talk about North Korea during his trip and also address with Japan a row over a US base, officials said.

Japan's left-leaning government which won elections in August has butted heads with the United States by considering seeking a new plan on the US base of Futenma on the southern island of Okinawa.

Campbell's counterpart at the Defense Department, Wallace "Chip" Gregson, will also be in Japan next week. He will leave for Tokyo on Wednesday and also go to Okinawa, the Pentagon announced earlier.

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