North Korea detains an AmericanCINCINNATI - Officials in North Korea and the U.S. released little information Friday about a university student from Ohio who was detained for what the authoritarian nation called a “hostile act.”
Otto Warmbier is the second person from southwest Ohio to be detained in North Korea in less than two years. A Dayton-area man, Jeffrey Fowle, was held for nearly six months in 2014.
North Korea’s state media said the University of Virginia student entered the country under the guise of a tourist and plotted against North Korean unity with “the tacit connivance of the U.S. government and under its manipulation.’’ The date of his arrest was unclear, as were any details of what he did.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, campaigning in New Hampshire as a Republican presidential candidate, called the arrest “inexcusable.” His Columbus office released a letter he sent to President Barack Obama, urging his Democratic administration to “make every effort to secure Mr. Warmbier’s immediate release and keep (his) family constantly apprised.” Kasich said North Korea should either provide evidence of the alleged anti-state activities or release Warmbier.
The U.S. Department of State said it was “aware of media reports that a U.S. citizen was detained in North Korea.”
A China-based tour company specializing in travel to North Korea, Young Pioneer Tours, confirmed that one of its customers, identified only as Otto, had been detained in Pyongyang, the North’s capital, but provided no other details. Social media accounts for Warmbier show interests in finance, travel and rap music. Warmbier is majoring in economics with a minor in global sustainability and was on the dean’s list.
North Korea’s announcement Friday comes amid a diplomatic push by Washington, Seoul and their allies to slap Pyongyang with tough sanctions for a recent nuclear test. North Korea has occasionally announced the arrests of foreign detainees in times of tension with the outside world in an apparent attempt to wrest concessions or diplomatic maneuvering room.
North Korea also regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of sending spies to overthrow its government to enable the U.S.-backed South Korean government to control the Korean Peninsula. Some foreigners previously arrested have read statements of guilt they later said were coerced. AP