News / USA

US Calls for Release of Detained Americans in North Korea

FILE - Jeffrey Fowle is shown in this City of Moraine handout photo.
FILE - Jeffrey Fowle is shown in this City of Moraine handout photo.
Victor Beattie

The United States has called for the release of three detained Americans after North Korea announced its intention to try two of them for committing “hostile acts” against it.  The announcement comes as Washington indicates it plans to go ahead with joint military exercises with South Korea later this year, despite the North’s call they be cancelled to improve inter-Korean relations.

North Korea Monday announced its intention to try 56-year old Jeffrey Edward Fowle and 24-year old Matthew Todd Miller, who entered the country as tourists in April, saying "suspicions about their hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their testimonies."

Miller allegedly tore up his visa on his arrival in Pyongyang April 10 and demanded asylum. Fowle, who entered North Korea April 29, is accused of perpetrating activities that violate North Korean law. Diplomatic sources say he left a Bible in his hotel room.  Korean-American Kenneth Bae, arrested in November 2012, was sentenced to 15 years hard labor after being convicted of trying to topple the state.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki Monday said Washington is aware of reports regarding Miller and Fowle facing trial.

"There’s no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad.  Out of humanitarian concern for Mr. Fowle and Mr. Miller and their families, we request North Korea release them, so they may return home.  We also request North Korea pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release, that he may reunite with his family and seek medical care," said Psaki.

U.S. envoy Robert King has twice been denied entry into North Korea to discuss releasing Bae, who is believed to be in ill health.

Psaki says the Embassy of Sweden, which handles U.S. interests in North Korea, visited Fowle June 20 and Miller twice, on May 9 and June 21. In May, the United States issued a travel warning advising Americans to avoid travel to North Korea, saying they face the prospect of arbitrary arrest and long-term detention.

Psaki also indicated the United States has no plans to cancel joint military drills with South Korea, called "Ulchi-Freedom Guardian," that are scheduled to begin in August.  Pyongyang’s National Defense Commission demanded they be suspended, while proposing the two Koreas halt all military hostilities ahead of the Asian Games hosted by South Korea in September:

"Well, broadly speaking, we certainly support improved inter-Korean relations, but with these specific exercises, these are defense-oriented and they’re designed to enhance the ability to respond to any potential contingency that could arise. They’re designed to increase readiness to defend South Korea and protect the region. So, we’ve seen these calls before and we certainly see the value in these exercises and the value in them continuing," said Psaki.

Sung-Yoon Lee, an assistant professor in Korean Studies at Tufts University, said North Korea is still able to influence international events by its statements and actions.

"We have the Chinese leader set to visit South Korea this week and that means it’s a sensitive time for China and South Korea.  Neither country wants a North Korean provocation. We also have, in recent weeks, the resumption of diplomatic talks between North Korea and Japan and, apparently, some progress on the very sensitive issue of abductees. According to South Korean news reports, in recent days, apparently there have been talks on the issue of over 1,800 Japanese women who accompanied their Korean husbands and resettled in North Korea in the late 1950s and early 60s. North Korea is talking, negotiating with Japan on sending the surviving Japanese-born women back home," said Lee.

He said he expects that will ensure a huge amount of money for North Korea, and that the North’s ability to influence such events enhances its negotiating power.

Lee said that by taking legal action against the Americans, North Korea perceives it has little to lose and potentially a lot to gain in its bargaining position with Washington.

Bruce Bennett, an analyst at the U.S.-based policy research organization The RAND Corporation, suggests that while the North wants to remain in the headlines, its latest actions may, in part, be a response to a new movie called The Interview, produced by Sony Pictures and due to be released in October. Leader Kim Jong-Un has denounced it as "an act of war:"

"It’s basically a depiction of a couple of reporters who go to interview Kim Jong-Un and try to find out about him but, before they go, they are enlisted by the CIA to kill him. So far, all they’ve (the producers) done is put out a trailer, but that trailer as of Saturday, because of North Korean complaints, had some 5-million hits on the website," said Bennett.

Kim Myong-Chol, executive director of the Center for North Korea/U.S. Peace and billed as an unofficial spokesman for the North Korean regime, is quoted as saying Kim Jong-Un may actually go see the movie when it is released. The co-star of the action-comedy film, Seth Rogan, has tweeted that he hopes Kim likes it. 

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid