American man detained for crossing North border

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American man detained for crossing North border

North Korea said yesterday it has detained an American man for illegally crossing its border with China. If confirmed, it will be the second such incident in a month.

The report by the official Korean Central News Agency said the man entered the North on Monday and is now under investigation. It did not identify him or his motive.

“An American was detained for trespassing on the border” between China and North Korea on Jan. 25, the two-paragraph English-language report said.

The United States Embassy in South Korea said it had no immediate knowledge of the report. If confirmed, the incident would mark the second border crossing by a U.S. citizen into the communist state. A Korean-American missionary named Robert Park entered last month, calling for human rights in the North.

Park, 28, remains under detention after walking into the North across the frozen Tumen River on Christmas Day, professing his intention to propagate “God’s love.” The United States has reportedly been trying to contact him through a foreign embassy in Pyongyang.

It remains unclear whether the latest crossing reported by the North is linked to the previous one, which was first publicized by Park’s fellow missionaries and later confirmed by Pyongyang.

Last March, two American journalists crossed into North Korea from China while working on a story about human trafficking. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for charges including illegal entry, but were freed as part of a diplomatic mission spearheaded by former U.S. President Bill Clinton in August.

The latest reported crossing comes amid heightened tension on the divided Korean Peninsula after the North fired artillery shells toward its western sea border with South Korea.

In a conflicting gesture, the North on Wednesday proposed to the U.S.-led United Nations command here that the sides resume the joint recovery of the remains of troops who died in the Korean War. The three-year conflict ended in a truce which leaves North Korea and China technically at war with the United States and South Korea. Analysts say the North’s latest saber rattling could be a tactic to pressure its rivals into signing a peace treaty to formally end the war and guarantee its survival.

The North remains under U.N. sanctions that hardened after it conducted its second nuclear test last May. The country says the sanctions must be lifted before it returns to six-nation talks aimed at the dismantlement of its nuclear arms programs, and that separate talks aimed at forging a peace treaty should quickly begin.

The United States and South Korea have called on North Korea to first rejoin the talks before discussing its demands.


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