Pyongyang has held a number of U.S. citizens in the past, using
them as a tool to extract visits by high-profile figures, including
former President Bill Clinton, but it has recently rejected visits
by officials to discuss their cases.
North Korea 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 American to be held was being questioned by authorities
for conduct inappropriate for the purpose of his visit as a tourist,
state media reported on Friday.
The North's KCNA news agency named him as Jeffrey Edward Fowle and
said he entered the country on April 29. It gave no further details.
U.S. media reported that Fowle is 56 years old and from Miamisburg,
Ohio, and worked in the Moraine city street department. A neighbor
speaking on WDTN television in Ohio said he is a father of three who
was traveling alone on the trip.
Calls to Fowle's family and his lawyer were not answered.
Japan's Kyodo news agency cited unidentified diplomatic sources on
Friday as saying the North had detained a U.S. citizen in mid-May,
and that the American was detained just before he was to leave North
Korea, allegedly for having left a Bible in his hotel.
The Associated Press quoted Timothy Tepe, a lawyer acting as a
spokesman for the family, as saying Fowle was not on a mission for
his church and went to North Korea as a tourist.
A State Department official said Washington was aware of reports
that a third U.S. citizen had been detained in North Korea. "There
is no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S.
citizens abroad," the official said, adding no further information
WAR VETERAN RELEASED
Two other Americans are currently being held by North Korea, both
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 U.S. State Department issued an advisory urging
Americans not to travel to North Korea because of the "risk of
arbitrary arrest and detention" even while holding valid visas.
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"Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained, or
expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal
outside North Korea," it said.
North Korea has detained and then
released other Americans 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 North said it was holding an American 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.
Bae was arrested in 2012 and has been sentenced to 15 years' hard
labor on charges of state subversion. His family says he suffers
from a variety of health issues, including diabetes, an enlarged
heart, kidney stones and severe back pain.
North Korea has twice canceled visits by Robert King, the U.S.
special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, to discuss Bae's
The United States has no diplomatic ties with North Korea and the
interests of its citizens in the country are represented by Sweden,
which has an embassy in Pyongyang.
(Additional reporting by Ju-min Park and Curtis Skinner; Editing by
Raju Gopalakrishnan, Tony Munroe and Paul Tait)
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