North Korea said it is preparing to indict two Americans detained on charges of unspecified “hostile acts” against the country.
Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle both entered North Korea in April, according to the country’s official Korean Central News Agency. Authorities in the North have since confirmed the two engaged in unspecified hostile acts through testimony and evidence, KCNA said today without details on the suspicions.
In addition to the two, North Korea has been holding U.S. tour operator Kenneth Bae since late 2012 and South Korean missionary Kim Jung Wook since late last year. Bae, who is also a Christian missionary, was sentenced last year to 15 years in a labor camp for what the North called plans to overthrow the Kim Jong Un regime.
“Kim has been toughening crackdowns on anyone who poses a threat to his power, whether he be American or Korean, since taking power” in late 2011, Oh Gyeong Seob, a North Korea analyst at the Sejong Institute near Seoul, said by phone. “These detained Americans may also later prove to be a good bargaining chip for talks with the U.S. government.”
Fowle, who was in North Korea as a tourist, was detained after allegedly leaving a bible in his hotel room, Kyodo news agency reported on June 6. Fowle is a 56-year-old father of three from Maimisburg, Ohio, Newsweek reported on June 9. Miller tore up his tourist visa after arriving in North Korea and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum, KCNA reported. The news agency reported that Miller is 24.
KCNA’s report follows test-firings of missiles by North Korea in the past several days, which has raised tensions before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s July 3-4 visit to Seoul. Xi and South Korean President Park Geun Hye will discuss ways to convince the North to end its nuclear program.
The U.S. does not have an embassy in North Korea. The two detained Americans are in contact with an official handling consular affairs and being treated “in line with the laws of the relevant country,” KCNA said.