An American university student has reportedly been detained in North Korea. North Korean state news outlet KCNA accused the student of carrying out a “hostile act” against the government.
Otto Frederick Warmbier, a 21-year-old U.S. student at the University of Virginia, was held in Pyongyang by North Korean authorities on Jan. 2 while on a tour with a China-based travel company, reports CNN.
The U.S. State Department is reportedly working with the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang to address the issue. The U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, and Sweden serves as the protecting power of U.S. interests in the country, reports the BBC.
Young Pioneer Tours, the agency that Warmbier was with when detained in Pyongyang, confirmed his detainment on Jan. 2 and informed Warmbier’s family.
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“We are in contact with the Swedish embassy… who are working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to address the case," Young Pioneer Tours said in a statement, according to BBC. "We are also assisting the U.S. Department of State closely with regards to the situation.
“In the meantime we would appreciate Otto’s and his family’s privacy being respected and we hope his release can be secured as soon as possible," the statement concluded.
North Korea accuses the student of attempting to sabotage its government and national interests. According to KCNA's report, the student entered North Korea “for the purpose of bringing down the foundation of its single-minded unity at the tacit connivance of the U.S. government," CNN notes.
North Korea has arrested Americans in the past on similar charges and often uses such arrests to put pressure on the U.S.
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Kim Dong Chul, a 62-year-old American citizen from Fairfax, Virginia, is currently imprisoned in North Korea after being detained in October 2015. In a recent interview with CNN in Pyongyang, Chul said, “I’m asking the U.S. or South Korean government to rescue me.”
The report of the student’s detainment comes as North Korea claims to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, according to BBC.
The U.S. is calling for new international sanctions against the country, and the U.S. Department of State has advised Americans against visiting North Korea.