Saturday 31 January 2015

North Korea prepares to try tourists for 'hostile acts' like leaving Bible in hotel room

Published 30/06/2014 | 17:57

North Korea is preparing to try two Americans who entered the country as tourists over carrying out what it says were hostile acts against it.

Investigations into Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle concluded that suspicions about their hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their testimonies, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said.

Mr Fowle arrived in the county on April 29. North Korea's state media said in June that authorities were investigating him over committing acts inconsistent with the purpose of a tourist visit.

Diplomatic sources said he was detained for leaving a Bible in his hotel room. But a spokesman for his family said the 56-year-old from Miamisburg, Ohio, was not on a mission for his church.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (top 5th R) attends a ceremony to address commanding officers of the combined units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang April 2, 2014. REUTERS/KCNA (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a ceremony to address commanding officers of the combined units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang today. Photo: Reuters/KCNA
Kim Jong Un meets the commanding officers of the combined units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this undated photo released today in Pyongyang (April 2). Photo: Reuters/KCNA
South Korean marines stand guard at a guard post on Baengnyeongdo, an island near the border with North Korea. A South Korean military inquiry into a drone found on a border island has concluded that North Korea flew the unmanned aircraft to conduct reconnaissance missions, a media report said. Photo: Reuters/Hong Hae-in/Yonhap
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un addresses commanding officers of the combined units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang April 2, 2014. Photo: Reuters/KCNA
Kim Jong Un addresses commanding officers of the combined units of the Korean People's Army (KPA). Photo: Reuters/KCNA
Kim Jong Un disembarks from a plane in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang April 2, 2014. Photo: Reuters/KCNA
Kim Jong Un greets commanding officers of the combined units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang today (April 2).
Kim Jong Un (front centre) smiles with commanding officers of the combined units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang April 2, 2014.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) smiles as he stands with commanding officers of the combined units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang. Photo: Reuters/KCNA
Kim Jong Un (top left) addresses commanding officers of the combined units of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang April 2, 2014. Reuters/KCNA
Meanwhile....a crashed unmanned drone is seen on Baengnyeongdo, an island near the border with North Korea. A South Korean military inquiry into the drone has concluded that North Korea flew the unmanned aircraft to conduct reconnaissance missions, a media report said. Photo: Reuters/Yonhap
An crashed unmanned drone is seen on Baengnyeong, an island near the border with North Korea April 1, 2014. The unmanned drone crashed on the South Korean island near a disputed maritime border with North Korea, a South Korean defence ministry official said on Tuesday, triggering an investigation into whether the aircraft was from the North. The drone fell on Baengnyeong island at about 4 p.m. (08:00 BST) on Monday, when North Korea fired hundreds of artillery rounds in seas close to a disputed maritime line. That triggered a similar show of strength from South Korea. REUTERS/Yonhap (SOUTH KOREA - Tags: MILITARY POLITICS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) ATTENTION EDITORS THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
South Korean marines arrive at a port on Baengnyeongdo, an island near the border with North Korea April 1, 2014. Photo: Reuters/Hong Hae-in/Yonhap

His wife and three children - aged nine, 10, and 12 - said they miss him very much and "are anxious for his return home", a statement after his detention provided by a spokesman for the family said.

"It's devastating," Sergei Luzginov, a Fowle family friend said today. "We are praying for him... He loves his kids and he was very protective of his family, and it's going to be tough for them to survive without Jeff if he's going to be sentenced for a long time."

Delegates attend the first session of the 13th Supreme People's Assembly at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang April 10, 2014. REUTERS/KCNA (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA
Delegates attend the first session of the 13th Supreme People's Assembly at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang today. Photo: Reuters/KCNA
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Workers' Party of Korea's Central Committee in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang yesterday. Photo: Reuters/KCNA
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang, in this still image taken from video released by Kyodo April 9, 2014. North Korea on Wednesday announced its leader Kim was re-elected as First Chairman of the ruling National Defence Commission at the meeting of its assembly. Photo: Reuters/Kyodo
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a meeting of Political Bureau of the Workers' Party of Korea's Central Committee in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Photo: Reuters/KCNA
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presides over a meeting of Political Bureau of the Workers' Party of Korea's Central Committee in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) yesterday. Photo: Reuters/KCNA
North Korea yesterday announced its leader Kim was re-elected as First Chairman of the ruling National Defence Commission at a meeting of its assembly. Photo: Reuters/Kyodo
Kim, once again, First Chairman of the ruling National Defence Commission. Mandatory credit Photo: Reuters/Kyodo
The first session of the 13th Supreme People's Assembly at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in motion. Photo: Reuters/KCNA
A mass rally to celebrate the re-election of its leader Kim Jong Un as First Chairman of the ruling National Defence Commission. Photo: Reuters/Kyodo
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is pictured in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang today. Photo: Reuters/KCNA
A soldier stands guard along the bank of the Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, April 6, 2014. Photo: Reuters/Jacky Chen
A soldier looks through binoculars inside a sentry post along the bank of Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong. Photo: Reuters/Jacky Chen
A soldier stands guard along the bank of the Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong. Photo: Reuters/Jacky Chen
A soldier stands along the bank of Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong. Photo: Reuters/Jacky Chen

Mr Luzginov said he met the Fowle family in 2007 in an Ohio twon's Russian immigrant community. Both he and Fowle's wife, Tatyana Fowle, 40, are Russian immigrants.

Mr Luzginov said Mr Fowle's family and friends are trying to be optimistic "but at the same time, you know the track record that's the (North) Korean government".

A South Korean marine LVT-7 landing craft sail to shores through a smoke screen during the U.S.-South Korea joint landing exercises called Ssangyong, part of the Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea, Monday, March 31, 2014.  South Korea said North Korea has announced plans to conduct live-fire drills near the rivals' disputed western sea boundary. The planned drills Monday come after an increase in threatening rhetoric from Pyongyang and a series of rocket and ballistic missile launches in an apparent protest against the annual military exercises by Seoul and Washington.  (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A South Korean marine LVT-7 landing craft sail to shores through a smoke screen during the U.S.-South Korea joint landing exercises called Ssangyong, part of the Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea, Monday, March 31, 2014.
South Korean marine LVT-7 landing craft sail to shores through smoke screens during the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises called Ssangyong, part of the Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea, Monday, March 31, 2014.
South Korea said North Korea has announced plans to conduct live-fire drills near the rivals' disputed western sea boundary.
U.S. Marines run out from a South Korean LVT-7 during the U.S.-South Korea joint landing exercises called Ssangyong, part of the Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea, Monday, March 31, 2014.
A South Korean marine aims his machine gun during the U.S.-South Korea joint landing exercises called Ssangyong, part of the Foal Eagle military exercises, in Pohang, South Korea, Monday, March 31, 2014.
Amphibious assault vehicles of the South Korean Marine Corps throw smoke bombs as they move to land on shore during a U.S.-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang March 31, 2014.
Amphibious assault vehicles of the South Korean Marine Corps throw smoke bombs as they move to land on shore during a U.S.-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang March 31, 2014.
A U.S. (L) marine and South Korean marines participate in a U.S.-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang March 31, 2014. The drill is part of the two countries' annual military training called Foal Eagle, which began on February 24 and runs until April 18.
Students gather at a shelter during a drill on Yeonpyeong island, an island near the border with North Korea March 31, 2014. North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire on Monday off their disputed western maritime border, Seoul scrambled jets and residents of a South Korean island fled to bomb shelters in the most dramatic escalation of tensions since 2010. One North Korean shell landed in South Korean waters, although none hit South Korean land, unlike in 2010 when a barrage killed two soldiers and two civilians.
Passengers watch a television program showing reports on North Korea's plan to conduct live-fire drills, at a railway station in Seoul March 31, 2014.
Abandoned trays are seen after students fled to a shelter during a drill at a cafeteria of an elementary school on Yeonpyeong island, an island near the border with North Korea March 31, 2014 in this picture released by Yonhap.
Abandoned trays are seen after students fled to a shelter during a drill at a cafeteria of an elementary school on Yeonpyeong island, an island near the border with North Korea March 31, 2014 in this picture provided by Ongjin County and released by News1. North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire on Monday off their disputed western maritime border, Seoul scrambled jets and residents of a South Korean island fled to bomb shelters in the most dramatic escalation of tensions since 2010.

KCNA said Mr Miller, 24, entered the country on April 10 with a tourist visa, but tore it up at the airport and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum.

North Korea has also been separately holding Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae since November 2012. He was convicted by a North Korean court and is serving 15 years of hard labour, also for what the North says were hostile acts against the state.

A small number of US citizens visit North Korea each year as tourists, though the State Department strongly advises against it.

The latest arrests present a conundrum for Washington, which has no diplomatic ties with the North and no embassy there. The Swedish Embassy takes responsibility for US consular affairs.

Pyongyang has been strongly pushing tourism lately in an effort to bring in foreign cash but remains highly sensitive to any actions it considers political and is particularly wary of anything it deems to be Christian proselytising.

After Mr Miller's detention, Washington updated its travel warning about the North to note that over the past 18 months it has "detained several US citizens who were part of organised tours".

It said: "Do not assume that joining a group tour or use of a tour guide will prevent your arrest or detention by North Korean authorities."

It added that efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions of US citizens have not succeeded in gaining their release.

The Korean Peninsula is still in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea.

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