North Korea Confirms Arrest of US Citizen

Posted December 21st, 2012 at 5:40 am (UTC-5)
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North Korea says it has arrested a U.S. citizen for committing crimes against the state after he entered the reclusive communist country as a tourist.

The official Korean Central News Agency said Friday the man, identified as Bae Jun Ho, has confessed to unspecified crimes that it said were “proven through evidence.”

It said legal actions are being taken against Bae “in line with criminal procedure law,” suggesting he will be tried in court. Under North Korean law, the punishment for hostile action against the state is five to 10 years of hard labor.

The report said Bae was detained on November 3 as he entered the northeastern port city of Rason, which lies in a special economic zone near the border with Russia and China.

KCNA says officials from the Swedish Embassy met with Bae on Friday. Sweden often acts on the U.S. behalf, since Washington does not have diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.

North Korea has detained several Americans in recent years, mostly journalists or Christians accused of proselytizing.

In 2009, two television journalists were detained and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor after crossing into the North from China. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton later traveled to North Korea to win their release.

In 2010, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter negotiated the release of U.S. national Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was sentenced to eight years of hard labor.

The latest arrest was first reported by South Korean media. The reports described the detainee as a 44-year-old Korean-American tour operator Kenneth Bae, and said he was arrested for carrying a computer that contained sensitive or controversial information.

The arrest comes amid increased tension between the U.S. and North Korea after Pyongyang successfully launched a satellite into space earlier this month. The U.N. Security Council condemned the launch as a disguised long-range missile test barred under U.N. sanctions.