US citizen held in North Korea, State Department confirms

US citizen held in North Korea, State Department confirms

A US citizen who has frequently visited North Korea has been detained in the communist country, the US government said Tuesday, DPA reported.

State Department spokeswomen Victoria Nuland said the US was aware of reports that the citizen had been detained but gave few details, citing privacy.

"We obviously have no higher priority than the welfare of our citizens. As you may know we have no representation in Pyongyang. The embassy of Sweden acts as our protecting power for issues involving US citizens in North Korea," Nuland said.

The US citizen was identified as Kenneth Bae. He was detained more than a month ago in North Korea, broadcaster CNN reported, citing a US official who also said that the government does not believe Bae is being mistreated. Bae is involved with a Protestant religious movement, the official said.

The Swedish embassy is trying to get him released, the official told CNN.

Bae's detention was first reported by a South Korean newspaper, the news agency Yonhap reported. The newspaper identified Bae, 44, as a Korean-American tour operator. It said he was arrested by security authorities in early November in North Korea.

Bae was traveling with five tourists, according to the newspaper. He was questioned after a computer hard disk was found among the tourists, the newspaper quoted an unidentified source as saying. The source told the newspaper that the hard disk might have contained sensitive information about North Korea.

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