SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea said yesterday it had detained a 24-year-old American this month who demanded asylum after arriving in the country on a tourist visa in “a gross violation of its legal order.”
The announcement was made while US President Barack Obama was visiting South Korea, one of Washington’s closest allies and still technically at war with Pyongyang.
“A relevant organ of the DPRK put in custody American Miller Matthew Todd on April 10 for his rash behaviour in the course of going through formalities for entry into the DPRK to tour it,” North Korea’s KCNA news agency said, using the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
KCNA said the detained man had a tourist visa for the DPRK, but tore it to pieces and shouted that he had come “to the DPRK after choosing it as a shelter.”
Uri Tours, a New York-based travel agency that specialises in trips to North Korea, identified the tourist as Matthew Miller, and said in a statement on their website that he had been visiting the country on a private tour.
“We are doing all we can to assist Mr Miller through this process,” the statement said, adding that the tour agency had been working with “diplomatic entities” to try and secure Miller’s release.
The US State Department said it was aware of reports that a US citizen had been detained in North Korea and it was in touch with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang on the issue.
“We don’t have additional information to share at this time,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a regular news briefing.