North Korea to put US citizen on trial

American citizen Matthew Miller was arrested in April after Pyongyang said he ripped up his visa at immigration and demanded asylum.

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SEOUL // North Korea will put US citizen Matthew Miller on trial on Sunday, state media said, shortly after he made a highly unusual televised plea for help from Washington.

Mr Miller, who is being held in North Korea along with Americans Kenneth Bae and Jeffrey Fowle, was arrested in April after Pyongyang said he ripped up his visa at immigration and demanded asylum.

North Korea said in June it would put Mr Miller and Mr Fowle on trial on unspecified charges related to “perpetrating hostile acts”.

On September 1, the three men pleaded for their freedom in an interview with CNN.

As government minders looked on, they urged Washington to send an envoy to the isolated authoritarian state to negotiate their release.

“My situation is very urgent,” Mr Miller said.

“I think this interview is my final chance to push the American government into helping me,” he said.

US officials vowed after the footage was aired that they would “leave no stone unturned” in their efforts to free the trio, but declined to disclose details, saying they did not want to jeopardise any diplomacy.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki would not discuss whether Washington was prepared to send a high-level envoy as it has in the past, when former president Bill Clinton and former governor Bill Richardson successfully won the release of detained Americans.

Although religious freedom is enshrined in the North’s constitution, it does not exist in practice and foreign missionaries – viewed as seditious elements intent on fomenting unrest – have been among those detained in the past.

Mr Bae, a Korean-American described by the North as a militant Christian evangelist, was arrested in November 2012 and later sentenced to 15 years of hard labour on charges of seeking to topple the North Korean government.

Mr Fowle entered the North on April 29 and was detained after reportedly leaving a Bible at a hotel.

* Agence France-Press