North Korea says it has arrested a US student accused of committing a “hostile act” against the state. State news agency KCNA identified him as University of Virginia student Otto Frederick Warmbier. He had entered North Korea as a tourist with the intention “to destroy the country’s unity”, said KCNA, which added that the US government had “tolerated and manipulated” him.
It did not give further details, but said he was now under investigation. An official at the US embassy in the South Korean capital, Seoul, told Reuters it was aware of the arrest. China-based tour agency Young Pioneer Tours released a statement confirming that Mr Warmbier had been detained while on one of their tours in Pyongyang, and said his family had been informed.
It had earlier told Reuters that Mr Warmbier was arrested on 2 January. “We are in contact with the Swedish Embassy… who are working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to address the case. We are also assisting the US Department of State closely with regards to the situation,” it said in the statement.
“In the meantime we would appreciate Otto’s and his family’s privacy being respected and we hope his release can be secured as soon as possible.” Sweden represents US interests in North Korea as Washington and Pyongyang do not have diplomatic relations.