US Welcomes North Korean Announcement to Release US Citizen

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked North Korea for cooperating to secure the release of a U.S. citizen, after the North announced it will deport the man who was detained in October for illegally entering the country from China.

“The United States appreciates the cooperation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the embassy of Sweden in facilitating the release of an American citizen,” Pompeo said in a statement, using the North’s official name.

Sweden represents U.S. interests in North Korea in the absence of diplomatic relations.

The development was an unusually swift resolution to a case that could have further complicated reconciliation efforts between the United States and North Korea.

Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency reported Friday that the U.S. man will be deported. “While being questioned, he said he had illegally entered the country under the command of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency,” the news agency said.

It was not immediately clear when the man would be deported.

Also Friday, KCNA announced that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un publicly inspected a new weapon for the first time in nearly a year, sending conflicting signals to the United States at a time of sensitive negotiations.

A picture released by state media shows Kim standing on a beach surrounded by officials in military uniforms, but no weapons are visible.

In June, Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump held a historic summit in Singapore, in which they pledged to work toward denuclearization.

However, diplomacy has stalled since then, with Washington pushing for more action on nuclear disarmament and the North insisting that the United States lift sanctions first.

In the recent past, North Korea has been stricter about detaining U.S. nationals, who were usually released only after a U.S. politician had been dispatched to retrieve them.

The detainees have usually been released in good condition. However, that was not the case for Otto Warmbier, a U.S. university student. He was released in a vegetative state last year after being detained for 17 months; he died days later. The North has denied reports of torturing him.

Last year, the United States banned its citizens from traveling to North Korea without special permission.

Source: Voice of America

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