North Korea to indict US citizen

Isolated state says it will soon put a detained American on trial for allegedly plotting against the government

 US and South Korean marines participate in a joint landing operation at Pohang seashore yesterday in Pohang, South Korea. Tension continues between North Korea and its neighbour. Photograph:  Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

US and South Korean marines participate in a joint landing operation at Pohang seashore yesterday in Pohang, South Korea. Tension continues between North Korea and its neighbour. Photograph: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Sat, Apr 27, 2013, 09:19

North Korea said today it will soon put a detained American on trial for allegedly trying to overthrow the government.

The announcement further complicates the already fraught relations between Pyongyang and Washington.

The indictment of Kenneth Bae comes in the middle of something of a lull after weeks of threats by North Korea against the US and South Korea.

It has expressed rage over UN sanctions over a February nuclear test and ongoing US-South Korean military drills, though analysts say Pyongyang’s motive is to get its Korean War enemies to negotiate on its own terms.

Mr Bae, identified in North Korean state media by his Korean name, Pae Jun Ho, is a tour operator of Korean descent who was arrested after arriving with a tour on November 3rd in Rason, a special economic zone bordering China and Russia.

He is the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The other Americans were eventually deported or released after high-profile diplomatic interventions, some involving former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Analysts say the North will probably hand Mr Bae a harsh punishment to use him as a bargaining chip in possible negotiations with the US.

“The preliminary inquiry into crimes committed by American citizen Pae Jun Ho closed,” the official Korean Central News Agency said in a brief report.

“In the process of investigation he admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it. His crimes were proved by evidence.”

DPRK is the acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Under North Korea’s criminal code, terrorist acts include murdering, kidnapping and injuring the country’s citizens can lead to a death sentence or life in jail.

North Korea and the US fought the 1950-53 Korean War and still do not have diplomatic relations. The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang represents the US.

KCNA did not say when Bae’s trial will take place or what the charges were.

North Korea’s state media and the US government have made little information about Mr Bae public.

But his friends, colleagues and South Korean activists specialising in North Korea affairs said he is a Christian missionary based in a Chinese border town who frequently made trips to North Korea to feed orphans there.

Officially, North Korea guarantees freedom of religion. In practice, authorities crack down on Christians, who are seen as Western-influenced threats to the government.

The distribution of Bibles and secret prayer services can mean banishment to a labour camp or execution, defectors from the country have said.

In 2009, American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were arrested and sentenced to 12 years of hard labour for trespassing and unspecified hostile acts.

They were freed later that year after Mr Clinton visited Pyongyang to negotiate their release.

AP