"Their hostile acts were confirmed by evidence and their own
testimonies," said the North's official KCNA news agency, referring
to Jeffrey Fowle and Matthew Miller who are being held by the
isolated country. It gave no details on when they would face court.
It was the latest in a flurry of events in the volatile region as
Chinese President Xi Jinping visits South Korea this week, and comes
a day after Pyongyang fired two short-range ballistic missiles,
defying a U.N. ban on such tests.
The visit by the head of state of its closest ally to a country with
which the North is still technically at war could raise tensions.
But in part of the mixed signals sent by Pyongyang, the North
offered on Monday to suspend military drills beginning July 4, if
the South would call off annual joint exercises with its ally, the
"The South Korean government should make a bold decision in response
to our special offer and take a big step toward the new future to
end the shameful past," the National Defence Commission, the North's
top military body, said in comments carried by KCNA.
Japan has said it will respond to the missile test in cooperation
with the United States and South Korea, but that it would not affect
talks it is holding with the North this week on the fate of Japanese
citizens kidnapped by the reclusive state decades ago.
Jeffrey Fowle, a 56-year-old street repairs worker from Miamisburg,
Ohio, was arrested after entering North Korea as a tourist in late
North Korea is one of the most isolated countries in the world, but
its economic backwardness and political system is a draw for some
Western visitors keen for a glimpse of life behind the last sliver
of the Cold War's iron curtain.
A job application uncovered by the Dayton Daily News in Ohio said
Fowle described himself as honest, friendly, and dependable.
Earlier reports in the paper said Fowle had previously traveled to
Sarajevo, Bosnia and had a fascination with the former Soviet Union
which led him to look for a Russian bride, whom he later married.
"Jeffrey loves to travel and loves the adventure of experiencing
different cultures and seeing new places," said a statement from
Fowle's family lawyer, released in early June.
"Mrs Fowle and the children miss Jeffrey very much, and are anxious
for his return home," the statement said.
Little is known about fellow U.S. citizen Matthew Miller, who was
taken into custody by North Korean officials after entering the
country the same month whereupon he ripped up his tourist visa and
demanded asylum, according to state media.
Miller was traveling alone, said a statement from Uri Tours, the
travel agency that took the 24 year-old to North Korea, published on
[to top of second column]
A spokesman for the New Jersey-based travel agency told Reuters
Miller was in “good physical condition” and his parents were aware
of the situation, but have chosen not to make any statement
regarding their son's arrest.
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.
HAPHAZARD LEGAL SYSTEM
North Korea's haphazard and inconsistent legal system makes it
difficult to predict the outcome for the detained tourists.
It has detained and then released other Americans in the past year,
including Korean War veteran Merrill Newman, whom it expelled last
December after a month-long detention based on accusations of war
crimes related to his service history.
Australian missionary John Short was arrested in February this year
for leaving copies of bible verses at various tourist sites during
his stay. Short, 75, and Newman, 86, were released on account of
their advanced age and health condition, state media said in the
wake of published confessions from the two men.
Another U.S. national, Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary who had
been arrested in November 2012, was convicted and sentenced by North
Korea's supreme court to 15 years hard labor last year.
Pyongyang has detained a number of U.S. citizens in the past, using
them to extract visits by high-profile figures, including former
U.S. President Bill Clinton who in 2009 helped secure the release of
two U.S. journalists who had secretly entered the country by
crossing into the country from China.
The journalists, Laura Ling and Korean-American Euna Lee, were
released after being tried by a city court in Pyongyang and given a
ten-year hard labor sentence.
But North Korea has twice canceled visits by Robert King, the U.S.
special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, to discuss Bae's
(Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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