North Korea said on Friday that it had discussed the issue of American and Canadian detainees with the Swedish ambassador in the country. Neither the US or Canada have diplomatic offices in North Korea.
The North is holding at least two Americans and one Canadian for alleged espionage, subversion and other anti-state activities.
A North Korean Foreign Ministry official met with the Swedish ambassador on Thursday for talks on consular access for the Canadian detainee, Hyeon Soo Lim, a Christian pastor from Toronto sentenced last year to life in prison with hard labor, according to Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency.
The Swedish ambassador used the meeting as a chance to raise the issue of consular affairs for the American detainees. The Pyongyang official, identified as the director general of the ministry’s European Department 2, reiterated a position that the North will handle the issues of detained Americans line with a wartime law, according to the KCNA.
North Korea has not elaborated on what “wartime law” means, although it suggests North Korea could deal with US detainees in a harsher manner. No further details were given, including what the North Korean official said about Lim.
Korean-American Kim Tong Chol is serving a 10-year prison term with hard labor, while University of Virginia undergraduate Otto Warmbier received 15 years over alleged anti-state activities such as espionage and subversion.
Pyongyang’s Supreme Court found Lim guilty of crimes such as allegedly trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system and helping US and South Korean authorities lure and abduct North Korean citizens, along with aiding their programs to assist defectors from the North.
Outside analysts say North Korea often uses foreign detainees as a way to win concessions from other countries.
[South China Morning Post]