This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on May 31 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un visiting the Mangyongdae School children's Palace in Pyongyang. / KCNA
North Korea detained a U.S. tourist, the third American held in the country, the nation's official Korean Central News Agency said Friday.
"American citizen Jeffrey Edward Fowle entered the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) as a tourist on April 29 and acted in violation of the DPRK law, KCNA reported. No other details were provided.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf confirmed that an American citizen had been detained, but would not confirm his identity, citing privacy concerns. Harf also would not say whether Sweden, which handles consular issues for the USA in North Korea, had been granted access to the captive.
There is no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad," Harf said.
Fowle was seized in mid-May as he was leaving North Korea after he left a Bible in his hotel room, Japan's Kyodo News Agency reported.
In April, North Korea said it had detained 24-year-old American Miller Matthew Todd for improper behavior while he was being processed to enter the country as a tourist. The brief report said he chose the North "as a shelter."
The agency said that a "relevant organ" of the DPRK had detained him and is investigating him, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reports.
Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae has been held since November 2012. Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for what the North says were hostile acts against the state.
The State Department last spoke to Bae's family June 4, and a representative of the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang last met with Bae on April 18, their 11th meeting with him, Harf said.
The U.S. State Department issued a fresh warning to U.S. citizens recently against all travel to North Korea, noting that even joining a tour was no protection from arbitrary arrest.
"Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained, or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside North Korea, including involvement in unsanctioned religious and/or political activities (whether those activities took place inside or outside North Korea), unauthorized travel, or unauthorized interaction with the local population," the State Department says.
It adds that North Korean security personnel "may regard as espionage unauthorized or unescorted travel inside North Korea and unauthorized attempts to speak directly to North Korean citizens."
Contributing: Oren Dorell; The Associated Press
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