PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea has detained a 24-year-old American man for improper behavior while he was being processed to enter the country as a tourist, state media reported Saturday.
The official Korean Central News Agency identified the man as Miller Matthew Todd — possibly putting his surname first — and said he entered the country on April 10 with a tourist visa, but tore it up and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum. The brief report said he chose the North "as a shelter."
It said he was detained for "gross violation" of North Korea's legal order and was being investigated. It gave no further details.
In a statement issued Friday, New Jersey-based Uri Tours said it has "been working closely and continuously with all relevant government and diplomatic entities to resolve this matter in a speedy and favorable manner."
Uri Tours identified the man as Matthew Miller.
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that the U.S. is aware of the report, but she did not confirm an American was being held. She said the department is in touch with the Swedish Embassy which handles consular cases for the U.S. because Washington does not have diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
"There is no greater priority to us than the welfare and safety of US citizens. We don't have additional information to share at this time," Psaki said.
A large number of foreign tourists were in North Korea in mid-April to see events held for the anniversary of national founder Kim Il Sung's April 15 birthday. One of the main events, the annual Pyongyang marathon, was opened to foreign amateur runners for the first time this year and drew well over 100 tourists.
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