TOKYO – North Korea said today it is preparing to try two Americans who entered the country as tourists for carrying out what it says were hostile acts against the country. Though a small number of U.S. citizens visit North Korea each year as tourists, the State Department strongly advises against it.
Investigations into Americans Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle concluded that suspicions about their hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their testimonies, Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a short report.
KCNA said North Korea is making preparations to bring them before a court. It did not specify what the two did that was considered hostile or illegal, or what kind of punishment they might face. It also did not say when the trial would begin.
Fowle arrived in the country on April 29. North Korea’s state media said in June that authorities were investigating him for committing acts inconsistent with the purpose of a tourist visit.
Diplomatic sources said Fowle was detained for leaving the Bible in his hotel room. But a spokesman for Fowle’s family said the 56-year-old from Ohio was not on a mission for his church. KCNA said Miller, 24, entered the country April 10 with a tourist visa, but tore it up at the airport and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum. A large number of Western tourists visited Pyongyang in April to run in the annual Pyongyang Marathon or attend related events. Miller came at that time, but tour organizers say he was not planning to join the marathon.
North Korea has also been separately holding Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae since November 2012. He was convicted by a North Korean court and is serving 15 years of hard labor, also for what the North says were hostile acts against the state.
The latest arrests present a conundrum for Washington, which has no diplomatic ties with the North and no embassy in Pyongyang.
Instead, the Swedish Embassy takes responsibility for U.S. consular affairs in the North.