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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

North Korea Says Second American Taken Into Custody

Kurt Achin | Seoul 28 January 2010

North Korea says it has arrested another U.S. citizen. If confirmed, the man would be the second American taken into custody in the North in two months. North Korea also is continuing with maritime artillery drills.

North Korea's official news agency issued a short report Thursday saying "an American was detained for trespassing" on its border with China on January 25. The report said the man is under investigation.

Exactly one month earlier - on Christmas Day, December 25 - activists here in South Korea say U.S. citizen Robert Park illegally crossed the same border to spread a Christian message of human rights.

North Korea reported the arrest of an American soon after than, but has never publicly referred to Park by name.

Jo Sung-rae, a human rights activist and close colleague of Park here in Seoul, says if another American did cross into the North, the action had no connection with Christian groups here.

Jo says no, absolutely not. They have checked to see if there is a connection.

Jo is even skeptical that North Korea took a second American into custody at all.

He says after Park's entry, it has become extremely hard to get in to North Korea from China. He also describes it as "highly questionable" that North Korea would issue a report of the arrest so soon after it took place.

No confirmation of the report was available from U.S., Chinese, or South Korean authorities Thursday.

Also Thursday, North Korea fired more artillery shells into disputed waters west of the Korean peninsula, as it had said it would.

Pyongyang says it is conducting an annual military drill, and warned ships to stay clear of the area until March. South Korean defense officials say so far, the shells are landing north of a maritime border with the South that Pyongyang has long disputed.

For that reason, South Korea says it is closely observing the firing, but has no objection to it.

The North on Thursday also proposed resuming multinational efforts to recover bodies of soldiers lost in its territory during the 1950s Korean War. The search for thousands of unaccounted for U.S. and South Korean troops was halted in 2005 because of security concerns related to the North's nuclear weapons programs.

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