The announcement was made while US President Barack Obama
was visiting South Korea. Photo by Reuters
North Korea said today 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
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, 24, 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
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."
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
The United States has no diplomatic relations with North
Korea and the interests of its citizens in the country are
represented by Sweden.
While KCNA identified the man as Miller Matthew Todd, it
appeared that it had used the Korean convention of putting
the last name first, followed by the first and middle names.
As a result, the man's name was likely to be Matthew Todd
Kenneth Bae, a Korean American missionary, has been held in
North Korea for more than a year. He was arrested as he led a
tour group in the country in 2012 and sentenced to 15 years
of hard labor on charges of state subversion.
North Korea has twice cancelled visits by Robert King, the US
special envoy for North Korean human rights issues, to
discuss Bae's case.
Bae has acknowledged conducting religious services in North
Korea, one of the world's most isolated states and long
hostile to Westerners advocating religious causes.
Psaki said Swedish diplomats had visited Bae on April 18 and
the United States remained "deeply concerned" about his
"We continue to urge North Korean authorities to grant Mr.
Bae a special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian
grounds," she said.
Bae's family says he suffers from a variety of health issues,
including diabetes, an enlarged heart, kidney stones and
severe back pain.
Last month, North Korea freed John Short, a 75-year-old
Australian missionary it had arrested in February.
Short was accused by Pyongyang of committing a crime by
distributing bible tracts at a Buddhist temple in Pyongyang
on the birthday of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
North Korea said it had decided to deport Short, partly in
consideration of his age, and issued what it said was a
picture of a handwritten note from him apologising for his
Obama said that North Korea represented a threat not just to
Asia but to the United States. He and South Korea's President
Park Geun-hye said they would respond firmly to any