Thursday 26 April 2018

North Korea arrests fourth US citizen for 'hostile acts'

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects defences on Jangjae Islet in the southernmost part of the waters off the southwest front, in this photo released by North Korea’s Central News Agency. Photo: REUTERS
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspects defences on Jangjae Islet in the southernmost part of the waters off the southwest front, in this photo released by North Korea’s Central News Agency. Photo: REUTERS

John Ruwitch

North Korea yesterday said it detained another American citizen over unspecified hostile acts against the country.

North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said Kim Hak Song, an employee of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, was detained on Saturday.

On Friday, North Korea accused the US and South Korean spy agencies of an unsuccessful assassination attempt on leader Kim Jong-un involving biochemical weapons.

North Korea on Wednesday announced the detention of an accounting instructor at the same university, Kim Sang Dok, for "acts of hostility aimed to overturn" the country. The KCNA didn't say whether the two cases are connected.

"A relevant institution is now conducting detailed investigation into his crimes," the KCNA said about Kim Hak Song.

In Washington, the State Department said it was aware of the report of the new detention and that "the security of US citizens is one of the department's highest priorities".

Kim Hak Song is among at least four Americans being detained in North Korea. The others are Otto Warmbier, serving a 15-year prison term with hard labour for alleged anti-state acts, and Kim Dong Chul, serving 10 years with hard labour for alleged espionage.

Kim Sang Dok, the former accounting instructor at the Pyongyang university, was arrested at the Pyongyang International Airport on April 22, the KCNA said. It said he was "intercepted for committing criminal acts" to overthrow the North's government, but didn't elaborate.

The Pyongyang University of Science and Technology is the only privately funded university in North Korea and is unique for having a large number of foreign staff.

Washington, Seoul and others often accuse North Korea of using foreign detainees to wrest diplomatic concessions, which in recent years have involved high-profile American missions sent to secure the release of the Americans.

North Korea's announcement of the detainments comes amid tensions over fears that Pyongyang is preparing another round of nuclear or missile tests and comments. US President Donald Trump has further spiked animosity by saying he isn't ruling out military action against the North, although Mr Trump has also said he would be willing to talk with Kim Jong-un under the right circumstances.

Meanwhile, organisers barred journalists from a publicly advertised event in Shanghai yesterday that offered Chinese investors the chance to get US immigrant visas if they put money in a real estate project linked to the family of Mr Trump's son-in-law.

The two-tower luxury apartment complex in New Jersey, One Journal Square, is being developed by KABR Group and the Kushner Companies, which until recently was headed by senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, the husband of Mr Trump's daughter Ivanka.

The developers are seeking to raise $150m (€136m), or 15.4pc of funding for the project, from investors through the EB-5 visa programme, according to marketing materials posted by the event's organiser, immigration agency Qiaowai.

The controversial EB-5 programme allows wealthy foreigners to, in effect, buy US immigration visas for themselves and families by investing at least $500,000 (€454,000) in certain development projects.

Guests at the event said Mr Kushner's sister Nicole Kushner Meyer spoke for about 10 minutes, including about her family's humble roots.

According to the 'New York Times', Ms Meyer attended a similar event in Beijing on Saturday and told the audience of about 100 people the project "means a lot to me and my entire family".

Mr Kushner, whose White House portfolio includes relations with China, sold his stake in Kushner Companies to a family trust early this year.

"Mr Kushner has no involvement in the operation of Kushner Companies and divested his interests in the One Journal Square project by selling them to a family trust that he, his wife, and his children are not beneficiaries of, a mechanism suggested by the Office of Government Ethics," his lawyer Blake Roberts, of WilmerHale law firm, said in a statement emailed to Reuters by the White House. "As previously stated, he will recuse from particular matters concerning the EB-5 visa programme."

A Kushner Companies spokeswoman declined to comment in a 'New York Times' article about the Beijing event published on Saturday.

The 'Times' story said Ms Meyer did not respond when asked if she was concerned about possible conflicts of interest facing her brother. Journalists from the 'Times' and 'Washington Post' were removed from Saturday's Beijing event, the newspapers reported.

Irish Independent

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