News / Asia

North Korea to Put Two Americans on Trial

FILE - Jeffrey Fowle is shown in this City of Moraine handout photo.
FILE - Jeffrey Fowle is shown in this City of Moraine handout photo.
VOA News

North Korea said on Monday it is preparing to put two U.S. tourists on trial for committing crimes against the state, dimming any hopes among their families that they would soon be released.

"Their hostile acts were confirmed by evidence and their own testimonies," said the North's official KCNA news agency, referring to Jeffrey Fowle and Matthew Miller who are being held by the isolated country.

The report did not specify what the two did that was considered hostile or illegal, or what kind of punishment they might face. It also gave no details on when they would face court.

Though a small number of U.S. citizens visit North Korea each year as tourists, the State Department strongly advises against it.

Event-filled week in region

The announcement was the latest in a flurry of events in the volatile region as Chinese President Xi Jinping visits South Korea this week, and comes a day after Pyongyang fired two short-range ballistic missiles, defying a U.N. ban on such tests.

The visit by the head of state of its closest ally to a country with which the North is still technically at war could raise tensions.

But in part of the mixed signals sent by Pyongyang, the North offered on Monday to suspend military drills beginning July 4, if the South would call off annual joint exercises with its ally, the United States.

"The South Korean government should make a bold decision in response to our special offer and take a big step toward the new future to end the shameful past," the National Defense Commission, the North's top military body, said in comments carried by KCNA.

FILE - Tanya Fowle, right, wife of Jeffrey Fowle, listens as attorney Tim Tepe reads a statement from the family in Lebanon, Ohio.FILE - Tanya Fowle, right, wife of Jeffrey Fowle, listens as attorney Tim Tepe reads a statement from the family in Lebanon, Ohio.
x
FILE - Tanya Fowle, right, wife of Jeffrey Fowle, listens as attorney Tim Tepe reads a statement from the family in Lebanon, Ohio.
FILE - Tanya Fowle, right, wife of Jeffrey Fowle, listens as attorney Tim Tepe reads a statement from the family in Lebanon, Ohio.

Japan has said it will respond to the missile test in cooperation with the United States and South Korea, but that it would not affect talks it is holding with the North this week on the fate of Japanese citizens kidnapped by the reclusive state decades ago.

Jeffrey Fowle, a 56-year-old street repairs worker from Miamisburg, Ohio, was arrested after entering North Korea as a tourist in late April.

North Korea's state media said in June that authorities were investigating him for committing acts inconsistent with the purpose of a tourist visit.

Diplomatic sources said Fowle, 56,  was detained for leaving the Bible in his hotel room. But a spokesman for Fowle's family said the Ohio man was not on a mission for his church, the Associated Press reported.

A job application uncovered by the Dayton Daily News in Ohio said Fowle described himself as honest, friendly, and dependable.

Earlier reports in the paper said Fowle had previously traveled to Sarajevo, Bosnia and had a fascination with the former Soviet Union which led him to look for a Russian bride, whom he later married.

"Jeffrey loves to travel and loves the adventure of experiencing different cultures and seeing new places," said a statement from Fowle's family lawyer, released in early June.

"Mrs. Fowle and the children miss Jeffrey very much, and are anxious for his return home," the statement said.

Sought asylum

Little is known about fellow U.S. citizen Matthew Miller, who was taken into custody by North Korean officials after entering the country April 10, whereupon he ripped up his tourist visa and demanded asylum, according to state media.

Miller was traveling alone, said a statement from Uri Tours, the travel agency that took the 24 year-old to North Korea, published on their website.

A spokesman for the New Jersey-based travel agency told Reuters that Miller was in "good physical condition" and his parents were aware of the situation, but have chosen not to make any statement regarding their son's arrest.

In May, the U.S. State Department issued an advisory urging Americans not to travel to North Korea because of the "risk of arbitrary arrest and detention" even while holding valid visas.

North Korea's haphazard and inconsistent legal system makes it difficult to predict the outcome for the detained tourists.

The latest arrests present a conundrum for Washington. The United States has no diplomatic relations with the North, and the Swedish embassy provides limited services for U.S. citizens there.

North Korea has detained and then released other Americans in the past year, including Korean War veteran Merrill Newman, whom it expelled last December after a month-long detention based on accusations of war crimes related to his service history.

Australian missionary John Short was arrested in February this year for leaving copies of bible verses at various tourist sites during his stay.

Short, 75, and Newman, 86, were released on account of their advanced age and health condition, state media said in the wake of published confessions from the two men.

Another U.S. national, Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary who had been arrested in November 2012, was convicted and sentenced by North Korea's supreme court to 15 years hard labor last year.

North Korea has twice canceled visits by Robert King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, to discuss Bae's case.

Bargaining chips

The occasional arrests of Americans are seen by some analysts as an attempt to use them as bargaining chips in negotiations with the US.

The impoverished but nuclear-armed state has for years expressed a desire to resume discussions with Washington, including the long-stalled six-nation talks offering aid and diplomatic benefits in return for denuclearization.

But Washington and Seoul say the North should show sincerity about abandoning its nuclear weapons program before the six-party talks can resume.

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

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Comment Sorting
Comment on this forum (1)
Comments
     
by: Not Again from: Canada
July 01, 2014 7:35 AM
Once again innocent US citizens have the same fate as other innocent Western citizens, they are detained for their curiosity and naivite in trying to visit North Korea as tourists, which is not a sensible idea/tourist destination.

The dastardly NK dictatorship, as reported by hundreds of refugees, has imprisoned and enslaved millions of its own citizens; it is starving its own people; it is following a very aggressive militaristic policy; it is now even turning against its own long term senior govt officials, which is a new approach with the intention of further radicalizing its own govt. All these actions are indicative of a very serious threat to the World.

What is even more worrisome is that China, its only ally, is no longer able to exert a positive moderating influence on NK. The type of forces and armaments, especially the nuclear program and their very sophisticated heavy lift medium range missiles, I think, it indicates that NK is preparing its forces to even challenge China. China appears to be oblivious to the rapidly changing situation in NK. It is all very destabilizing and poses grave risks to peace in the entire region and well beyond.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid