World Asia

North Korea says it will put 2 Americans on trial for 'hostile acts'

North Korea says it will try Americans Jeffrey Fowle and Matthew Miller for 'hostile acts'
One American in North Korea's custody reportedly left Bible in his hotel room

North Korea will put two Americans on trial for “hostile acts,” the nation announced Monday through its official news agency.

The Korean Central News Agency reported that Jeffrey Fowle and Matthew Miller would be tried for “perpetrating hostile acts after entering the territory of the DPRK,” North Korea's formal name.

The news agency did not specify the alleged hostile acts, nor did it say when the trial would begin.

Monday's report said suspicions about the two men's crimes have been confirmed though investigation and testimony.

Nolan Barkhouse, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, said that on June 20, officials from Sweden's embassy in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, were allowed consular access to Fowle. On June 21, they were permitted access to Miller, he said.

Asked about the condition of Fowle and Miller, Barkhouse said he had no further information but that State Department authorities were in "regular contact" with both men's families.

The State Department called on North Korea to release all three Americans in its custody.

Fowle, 56, was taken into custody this month after traveling to North Korea on a tourist visa. At the time of his arrest, authorities did not specify what crimes he was suspected of committing.

Diplomatic sources told the Associated Press that Fowle, of Ohio, had been detained for leaving a Bible in his hotel room. But a spokesman for Fowle's family said he was not on a mission for his church. His wife and three children said in a statement after his arrest that they miss him very much and “are anxious for his return home.”

North Korea detained Miller, 24, in April, saying he had torn up his tourist visa and expressed his intention to seek asylum in the secretive country. Miller intended to use the nation “as a shelter,” the government in Pyongyang said.

The U.S. State Department updated its travel warning about going to North Korea in May. It is not illegal for Americans to travel there, but the U.S. has no direct diplomatic relations with the country. The Swedish Embassy provides limited consular services to U.S. citizens there.

In its May advisory, the State Department said it “strongly recommends against all travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea,” noting that such trips are “not routine” and that American tourists have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention.

“Do not assume that joining a group tour or use of a tour guide will prevent your arrest or detention by North Korean authorities,” the bulletin said.

North Korea is also holding Kenneth Bae, a Korean American missionary who was detained in November 2012. He was sentenced in April 2013 to 15 years of hard labor for “hostile acts.”

Borowiec is a special correspondent. 

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

June 30, 3:38 a.m.: This post has been updated to include a statement from Nolan Barkhouse, spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, on consular access to Fowle and Miller.

This story was orginally posted at 7:37 p.m. on June 29.

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