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North Korea says it has detained a U.S. citizen

December 21, 2012|By Emily Alpert
  • Statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il stand amid falling snow Friday at Mansu Hill in Pyongyang, North Korea.
Statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il stand… (Ng Han Guan / Associated…)

North Korea said Friday that it had detained an American citizen who had committed an unspecified crime but gave few details.

State media appeared to confirm reports that emerged in recent weeks that U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae was being held, identifying the detainee by the Korean name Pae Jun Ho.

The Korean Central News Agency said the American citizen had “admitted his crime,” which was “proven through evidence,” but gave no details about the accusations against him. It reported that he had gone to a northeastern city in early November while on a tour.

Bae reportedly operated a tour company that took visitors to North Korea. Because the U.S. has no embassy or consulate in Pyongyang, North Korea's capital, the Swedish Embassy acts as the protecting power for American citizens. North Korean state media said officials from the Swedish mission visited the American detainee Friday.

A number of Americans have been detained in North Korea in what experts believe is a manuever to get the U.S. to engage with the isolated regime. In the last four years, five U.S. citizens have been arrested for entering the country illegally or on unspecified charges, the U.S. State Department said in a September travel warning.

The country recently launched a rocket in defiance of the U.S. and its allies. North Korea claimed the purpose was to carry a satellite into space, but Western officials believe the launch doubled as a way of testing its missile technology.

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