SEOUL, South Korea (AFP) — A US citizen has reportedly been arrested as he tried to fly out of North Korea, turning into the third American to be detained there, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency stated Sunday.

The US State Department stated it was conscious of the reviews, however there was no official affirmation of the arrest, which might come at a tense time in relations between Pyongyang and Washington.

Yonhap quoted sources as saying the person, recognized solely by his surname Kim, was arrested on Friday at Pyongyang International Airport on his means overseas.

It stated Kim, aged in his late 50s and a former professor at China’s Yanbian University of Science and Technology, had been concerned in assist programmes for the North.

He reportedly was in North Korea for a few month to debate aid actions, Yonhap stated. The purpose for his arrest was unclear.

“We are aware of reports that a US citizen was detained in North Korea,” a State Department official stated in Washington.

Due to the dearth of diplomatic relations, “In cases where US citizens are reported to be detained in North Korea, we work with the Swedish embassy, which serves as the United States’ Protecting Power in North Korea. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment,” the official stated.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service in addition to the unification and international ministries stated they may not affirm the report.

Two different US residents held

But the director of a Seoul-based group referred to as the World North Korea Research Center stated his sources in Pyongyang had confirmed the arrest.

“The reason North Korea is not saying anything yet is because it is not done with the investigations,” Ahn Chan-il, a former defector, instructed AFP.

“It is important for them to hold a US citizen hostage at this point to prevent Washington from carrying out a decapitation of Kim Jong-Un,” Ahn stated, referring to the North’s fears that the US plans a secret army strike to topple its chief.

“It’s also a resolve to point a double-action revolver against the US and China because he is a US citizen who worked in China.”

US President Donald Trump has urged China to take stronger steps to press the North to curb its nuclear and missile programmes.

Vice President Mike Pence, throughout a regional tour final week, warned that “all options are on the table” to curb the North’s nuclear ambitions as fears develop it could be planning one other atomic take a look at.

Two different US residents — school scholar Otto Warmbier and Korean-American pastor Kim Dong-Chul — are at present being held within the North after being sentenced to lengthy jail phrases.

The pastor Kim was sentenced final 12 months to 10 years of onerous labour for spying.

Also final 12 months Warmbier was jailed for 15 years for stealing a propaganda signal and for “crimes against the state”.

North Korea has arrested and jailed a number of US residents up to now decade, usually releasing them solely after high-profile visits by present or former US officers.

© Agence France-Presse

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