Accessibility links

North Korea Says US Detainee Attempted Suicide

North Korea says an American man being held for illegally crossing its border has tried to kill himself.

A statement issued by the regime's official Korean Central News Agency says Aijalon Mahli Gomes' suicide attempt was "driven by his strong guilty conscience," plus disappointment and despair that the U.S. government "has not taken any measure for his freedom."

The statement said the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang is aware of Gomes' condition, but it did not give any details of the incident. The Swedish embassy represents the United States in North Korea, as the two countries do not have diplomatic relations.

Gomes, a former English teacher in South Korea, was arrested in North Korea in January. He was sentenced in April to eight years in prison and fined about $700,000.

Pyongyang has threatened to impose a harsher punishment on Gomes due to Washington's support of South Korea's efforts to punish the regime for the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship.

The U.S. has urged the North to release Gomes on humanitarian grounds, and to not link the case to political issues between Washington and Pyongyang.

An international investigation has concluded the Cheonan was attacked by a North Korean submarine.

The U.N. Security Council is expected to vote Friday on a statement condemning the March 26 sinking of the Cheonan. The draft does not directly blame Pyongyang.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.