North Korea releases US detainee after six months
Iran Press TV
Wed Oct 22, 2014 7:36AM GMT
North Korea has released one of the three American nationals who were in custody in the country, according to the US State Department.
Jeffrey Fowle, 56, of Miamisburg, Ohio was arrested six months ago on charges of leaving a Bible in a nightclub in the northern port city of Chongjin, the department said on Tuesday.
He was flown out of North Korea on a US government jet that was spotted Tuesday, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, adding that Fowle had been evaluated by a doctor and appeared to be in good health.
The Swedish government helped negotiate Fowle's release. The State Department, however, declined to provide any details of how it was brokered.
Washington welcomed the release, but it was quick to stress that its focus remained firmly on the return of two other Americans, Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae, serving hard-labor prison terms in the country.
Miller, 24, was arrested in April after allegedly ripping up his visa at immigration. He was convicted of entering North Korea illegally to commit espionage and sentenced to six years of hard labor.
The 42-year-old Bae is a Korean-American missionary who is serving a 15-year sentence for alleged and unspecified 'hostile acts.'
Pyongyang has repeatedly rejected US offers to send an envoy to negotiate the detainees' release.
The sudden release of Fowle now raised speculations that Pyongyang is mulling to open the door to direct talks with the US.
'Usually we see a clear lead-up to this sort of thing, but not in this case,' Paul Carroll, a North Korea expert and program director at the Ploughshares Fund in San Francisco, said.
'It could mean the North Korean leadership is interested in exploring what might be possible in terms of picking up a conversation with the US again,' Carroll added.
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