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.
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

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs