Americans Detained in N. Korea Say They Committed Crimes

Pyongyang, North Korea -- Two Americans detained in Pyongyang said that their health is ok and they are being treated well, but they are worried that they may soon face trial.

They asked the US government to help secure their release from North Korea.

North Korean authorities allowed Matthew Todd Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle to meet a local Associated Press Television News (APTN) camera crew in Pyongyang on Friday.

The meeting took place at a government guesthouse in Pyongyang, and the camera crew was allowed to ask questions.

Detained US citizen Matthew Miller talked in a stilted way for part of his conversation but also answered questions about his health in a straightforward way, without hesitation. Miller says he is in good health, has received "good treatment," and has no complaints about his current detention.

Jeffrey Fowle, speaking separately, made an appeal for US government help, and pointed out that former US president Bill Clinton had travelled to North Korea in the past to help secure the release of detained Americans, and speculated whether "something along those lines can be done."

He said in that interview: "First of all I would like to apologize to the people and the government of the United States for causing a headache, a big headache for the State Department when something like this happens... So I apologize to the people, the government of the United States as well as the people and government of the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea.) It is a headache for them too."

Fowle also produced a handwritten letter, he says was penned by him, summarizing his experience.

Whether the letter was the American's idea or was written as a result of dialogue with the North Korean authorities is unknown.

In the letter, Fowle said that he had left a bible in the North Korean city of Chongjin, and that this had resulted in trouble with the North Korean authorities. Until now, North Korean authorities have not yet made public any details of any offence in connection with Fowle's detention.

In the case of Matthew Miller, North Korea's official news agency KCNA announced in April that he tore up his North Korean visa and shouted that he would seek asylum. The agency called this act "a gross violation order".

A third US citizen presently detained in North Korea, Kenneth Bae, appeared on Wednesday this week in a separate interview with a Japan-based newspaper, Choson Sinbo.

Bae was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in May 2013, and has been in hospital in Pyongyang because of ill health.

In his interview this week, Bae expressed concern that his health would deteriorate if he leaves hospital and returns to the special prison where he has been carrying out his sentence.

Another US citizen detained in North Korea last year and released, Merrill Newman, said on return to the US that he had been under pressure to make an apology to regain his freedom.

After the Kenneth Bae interview Wednesday this week, Japanese news agency Kyodo speculated that the timing of this might be related to the expected trip of North Korea's Foreign Minister to an upcoming regional meeting.

South Korean media reports have said that North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong may attend the ASEAN Regional Forum in Myanmar this month.

North Korean officials have met with US and South Korean officials on the sidelines of similar gatherings in the past.


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