This Monday, North Korea announced that it will try two detained Americans for unspecified crimes. The Wall Street Journal reports that the tourists are apparently being charged for what the North Korean media refers to as “perpetrating hostile acts.” The North Korean government also claims that it has evidence and confessions from both of the Americans about their crimes.
This incident only adds to the rising tensions between the US and North Korea as North Korea recently violated a UN sanction on weapons programs by firing two Scud-type missiles from its eastern coast.
The two tourists, Matthew Miller and Jeffrey Fowle, did not enter North Korea together and are unrelated. 56-year old Fowle came to visit North Korea on a group tour while Miller arrived via a solo tour.
Fowle, a road maintenance worker in southwestern Ohio, has a history of international trips according to Jonathan Cheng of the Wall Street Journal. Fowle has reportedly traveled to Sarajevo, Russia and now North Korea on a group tour. Reports say that he was arrested for leaving a Bible behind in his hotel room which North Korea sees as a threat to its government.
His experience is similar to that of Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for evangelizing. Bae has been serving his sentence since April of 2013.
24-year old Matthew Miller arrived in North Korea on a solo tour. Miller used a New Jersey based tourism company called Uri Tours to enter North Korea. Uri Tours has released what little information they have about Miller to the public through their website:
As required for all of our travelers, Mr. Miller provided an emergency contact. We have tried repeatedly to reach out to Mr. Miller’s emergency contact, but that person has not yet responded. Mr. Miller did not provide any family contact information on his tour application, nor has any family member reached out to us. We are in contact with the U.S. State Department and are doing everything we can to contact Mr. Miller’s family.
North Korean media says that Miller was detained for ripping up his visa and claiming that he came to North Korea for asylum.
The State Department cannot act directly in North Korea at this point. It is currently working with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang to resolve the issue since the United States has no formal diplomatic relations with North Korea.
The State Department is urging Americans not to travel to North Korea due to the risk of “arbitrary arrest and detention.”
[Image via Reuters]