Channel NewsAsia

US confirms third American detained in N Korea

The United States confirmed North Korea has detained a third American and called on the communist state to release the trio.

WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday confirmed North Korea has detained a third American and called on the communist state to release the trio.

"We are aware that a US citizen has been detained by North Korea," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.

"This is the third US citizen that has been detained in North Korea," Harf said, adding there was "no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of US citizens abroad."

Harf said she could not confirm the detainee's name due to privacy considerations. The official Korean Central News Agency identified him as Jeffrey Edwards Fowle.

"We continue to actively seek the release of... all three," Harf added.

The two others include 24-year-old US tourist Matthew Todd Miller, who was arrested in April after he apparently ripped up his visa at immigration and demanded asylum in the communist state.

Kenneth Bae, described by a North Korean court as a militant Christian evangelist, is also being held in the North after he was arrested in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years' hard labour on charges of seeking to topple the government.

North Korea, which has no diplomatic relations with the United States, said it had detained Fowle for "hostile activities" and was questioning him.

The US special envoy on human rights in North Korea, Robert King, was still ready to visit Pyongyang to try to secure the release of the detainees, Harf said.

Pyongyang has not allowed visits by King, his predecessor or UN human rights envoys, criticizing efforts to scrutinize its human rights record as political meddling

Japanese news agency Kyodo, citing diplomatic sources, said the detainee had been part of a tour group and was held in mid-May after he left a Bible at a hotel.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia