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North Korea detains US tourist, three now in custody

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SEOUL: North Korea said on Friday it had detained a US tourist for violating the country’s laws, bringing the number of Americans held by the secretive state to three.

Pyongyang has detained a number of US citizens in recent years, using them as a tool to extract visits by high-profile figures, including former President Bill Clinton, for propaganda means.

North Korea periodically accuses the United States of military hostility and conspiracy to overthrow its leadership. The two states have been locked in a tense diplomatic conflict over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes.

The latest American to be held was being questioned by authorities for conduct inappropriate for the purpose of his visit as a tourist, state media reported on Friday.

The North’s KCNA news agency gave his name only in Korean and said he entered the country on April 29. It gave no further details.

Earlier on Friday, Japan’s Kyodo news agency said the North had detained a U.S. citizen in mid-May. The Kyodo report quoted unidentified diplomatic sources.

Two other Americans are currently being held by the North, arrested after arriving on tourist visas and accused of crimes against the state. Korean American missionary Kenneth Bae has been in custody for 18 months and a second man has been held since April.

In May, the US State Department issued an advisory urging Americans not to travel to North Korea because of the “risk of arbitrary arrest and detention” even while holding valid visas.

“Foreign visitors to North Korea may be arrested, detained, or expelled for activities that would not be considered criminal outside North Korea,” it said.

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