North Korea has sentenced a US citizen to hard labor after he was found guilty of subversion and espionage. North Korea says he's admitted to the "unpardonable" offense of receiving military secrets on a USB thumb drive.
Kim Dong Chul was arrested in North Korea in October and had - according to North Korea's official news agency - admitted his guilt and was given a decade's hard labor following a brief trial Friday.
The 62-year-old South Korea-born American had reportedly been living near the North Korean border for 15 years and had commuted regularly to Rason - a special economic zone set up by North Korea.
"The Supreme Court of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea on Friday sentenced South Korea-born US citizen Kim Dong Chul to 10 years of hard labor for subversion of the DPRK social system and espionage activities," China's state-run news agency, Xinhua, reported.
North Korean state media alleged Chul had received a USB stick containing nuclear-linked and military secrets from a source within North Korea.
Criticized for its poor human rights record and coerced confessions, the isolated Communist nation has used detained Americans in the past to extract high-profile visits from the United States, with which it has no formal diplomatic relations.
North Korea increasingly isolated
Six foreigners, including Kim and three South Koreans, are known to be detained in North Korea which has recently completed tests of its nuclear weapons program and missile launches while ratcheting up bellicose rhetoric against neighboring South Korea and the United States.
The other detainees include Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old American tourist who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March for trying to remove a propaganda banner as a souvenir. It is also holding a Korean-Canadian Christian pastor, who is serving a life sentence for subversion.
The US has condemning imprisoning its citizens saying they are being used as pawns.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong defended the jailing of Warmbier for alleged anti-state activities, but told The Associated Press that he would inform authorities in Pyongyang there is concern in the US over the student's fate.
He said that Warmbier had been used by the US "as a tactic to make our lives difficult" by creating internal disturbances.
But he also did not rule out early releases of detainees before they have served their full sentences.
jar/kms (AP, Reuters, AFP)