North Korea announced on Friday that they have detained a US citizen after he confessed to unspecified crimes.
State-run media identified the American as Pae Jun Ho, and said that he entered North Korea as a tourist. According to reports from South Korea, Pae is a 44-year-old Korean American, who is known in the US as Kenneth Bae. He operates a travel company and went to North Korea with a group over a month ago, CNN reported.
According to KCNA, Pae has admitted to his crime, but they didn't specify what the crime was. Reuters reported that South Korean media had suggested Pae was arrested for carrying a computer hard disk which contained footage of North Korea executing defectors and dissidents. Reuters couldn't independently verify the claim.
Consular officials from the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang visited Pae on Friday. Sweden is the American liaison in North Korea.
CBS News reported that Pae arrived in the far Northeastern city of Rajin on Nov. 3 as part of a tour. Rajin is part of a special economic zone not far from Yanji, China, which often acts as a base for Christian groups that shelter North Korean defectors.
On Dec. 11, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined to comment publicly on Bae's case due to "privacy considerations," but said the agency is "obviously aware of these reports that a US citizen has been detained in North Korea. We obviously have no higher priority than the welfare of our citizens," she said.
Experts have speculated that Pae may become a bargaining chip for the North, as part of an attempt to draw the US into talks. Tensions between US and North Korea have been high after a recent North Korean rocket launch. Washington has no diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.