UPDATE 1-North Korea charges detained American with crime against state

SEOUL, Dec 21 (Reuters) - North Korea said on Friday it had

detained an American tourist on charges of perpetrating a crime

against the state and is putting him through criminal

proceedings, indicating it is set to try him.

Kenneth Bae, a Korean American tourist who travelled to

visit North Korea last month, has been detained by police in the

reclusive state, associates of his family and activists in Seoul

said last week.

His custody comes amid tension between Pyongyang and

Washington over a recent North Korean rocket launch, which U.S.

officials consider a provocative test of ballistic missile

technology.

"In the process of investigation, evidence proving that he

committed a crime against the DPRK was revealed. He admitted his

crime," the state news agency KCNA reported.

KCNA said Swedish Embassy officials had visited Bae on

Friday but provided no details of his condition or of the crime

with which he was charged. Sweden handles the affairs of U.S.

citizens in North Korea because the United States does not have

diplomatic relations with North Korea, or the Democratic

People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), as it is officially known.

In Washington, t he U.S. State Department confirmed that a n

American c itizen had been detained, but declined to provide

further details.

According to North Korean law, the punishment for hostile

acts against the state is five to 10 years of hard labour.

Kookmin Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper owned by an

evangelical church, had said Bae had been arrested for carrying

a computer hard disk which contained footage of North Korea

executing defectors and dissidents.

It has not been possible to verify the report.

U.S. citizens of Korean descent have previously run into

trouble in North Korea. Robert Park, a missionary, was detained

after entering the country in late 2009 and says he was tortured

for protesting against human rights abuses.

Earlier that year, former U.S. President Bill Clinton flew

to Pyongyang to secure the release of two American journalists

who had entered North Korea illegally.

The two were sentenced to 12 years of hard labour in a work

camp for crossing the border illegally and "committing hostile

acts".

North Korea, which has twice tested nuclear devices,

launched a rocket on Dec. 12 that put an object into orbit.

The launch drew U.N. condemnation as a violation of a ban on

missile-related activities, but North Korea has said it was

exercising its right to space exploration.

Most Popular in World