US citizens detained in North Korea

North Korea has continued to detain American citizens as tensions rise related to North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

______

American politicians have expressed heightened concern about the authoritarian country’s nuclear and missile development efforts.

President Donald Trump said he isn’t ruling out military action against the country, but also said he would talk with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “under the right circumstances.”

North Korea has warned it’s ready to launch a pre-emptive strike if the U.S. shows “reckless” military action.

Here’s a look at the American citizens currently being detained in North Korea.

– Kim Dong Chul –

Age: 62

Status: Incarcerated. 

Sentence: 10 years in prison with hard labor.

Arrest details: Kim Dong Chul was arrested in October 2015, but the arrest was not widely reported until January 2016. North Korean officials arrested him for subversion, alleging the missionary had committed acts of espionage. He apologized for trying to steal military secrets during a government-arranged news conference, according to The New York Times. He said he was in the country on business.

U.S. response: The U.S. works with the Swedish Embassy in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang when an American citizen is detained because the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea.

– Otto Warmbier –

Age: 22

Status: Incarcerated.

Sentence: 15 years in prison with hard labor.

Arrest details: North Korean officials arrested Warmbier for attempting to steal a political banner from a hotel while he was in the country as part of a tour group, according to The Associated Press. The arrest was announced in January 2016. He claimed he wanted to take the banner for a woman in Ohio who wanted to hang it in her church. Warmbier, of suburban Cincinnati, Ohio, was a student from the University of Virginia at the time of his arrest.

U.S. response: The U.S. State Department called the sentence “unduly harsh,” according to The Associated Press. Warmbier’s parents said they wanted their son included in U.S. negotiations with North Korea, saying they have been denied contact with their son and only have the memory of his tearful confession.

– Tony Kim –

Age: Late 50s.

Status: Detained. 

Sentence: No sentence reported. The country’s official Korean Central News Agency reports Kim was “intercepted for committing criminal acts to overthrow the North’s government,” according to the Associated Press.

Arrest details: Kim was arrested in April 2017, and North Korea confirmed the arrest in May 2017. North Korean officials arrested Kim at Pyongyang International Airport as the American citizen tried to leave the country. Kim taught accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology prior to being arrested. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said Kim was “intercepted for committing criminal acts of hostility aimed to overturn the DPRK not only in the past but also during his last stay before interception.”

U.S. response: The U.S. said it is aware of reports that Kim was detained, but had no other comments, citing privacy.

– Kim Hak Song –

Age: Not reported.

Status: Detained.

Sentence: No sentence reported. Per AP, Kim Hak Song has been “accused of committing unspecified hostile acts against the country.”

Arrest details: North Korea announced the arrest in May 2017. The country’s official Korean Central News Agency said “a relevant institution is now conducting detailed investigation into his crimes,” according to The Associated Press. Like Tony Kim, Kim Hak Song worked for the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. The university said he was doing agricultural development work at an experimental farm, but said his arrest was not related to his work.

U.S. response: The U.S. State Department said it was aware of the reported detention. According to Reuters, the department said the security of U.S. citizens is one of its “highest priorities.”