US tourist arrested at North Korean border


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The Independent Online

An American traveller has been arrested for his “rash behaviour” as he tried to enter North Korea on a tourist visa.

The North Korean authorities said the US citizen had torn up his visa and tried to claim asylum as he was going through customs.

The arrest was made on April 10 but was only announced today as US President Barack Obama was visiting South Korea.

North Korea’s KCNA news agency announced the arrest and named the detained man as Miller Matthew Todd, perhaps putting his surname first as is the local convention.

"A relevant organ of the DPRK put in custody American Miller Matthew Todd, 24, on April 10 for his rash behaviour in the course of going through formalities for entry into the DPRK [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to tour it," the agency said.

The US State Department said it was aware of the reports and has been in touch with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang on the issue. The US has no direct diplomat relations with North Korea so Sweden represents Washington when US citizens are in need of consular assistance.

"We don't have additional information to share at this time," US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Another US citizen, Kenneth Bae, has been held in North Korea for more than a year. The missionary, who conducted religious services in North Korea, was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for “subversion”.

Ms Psaki said Swedish diplomats last visited Bae on April 18 and that the US remains "deeply concerned" about his health. She added: "We continue to urge North Korean authorities to grant Mr Bae a special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds."

John Short, an Australia missionary arrested in North Korea in February for distributing bible tracts at a Buddhist temple, was released last month after apologising.