An American citizen has been detained in North Korea for several months, the State Department said today.
"I don't have any details on what this individual was doing in North Korea. But we would call on the government of North Korea to release this citizen on humanitarian grounds. And we would ask that they respect and treat this citizen in a manner consistent with international human rights law," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
Toner would not confirm any details about the individual's identity, wellbeing, or why he was detained, citing privacy restrictions. He confirmed, however, that Swedish diplomats, who represent American interests in Pyongyang, have been able to visit the person "recently."
A senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the individual had been detained in November, but would not say when the case came to the attention of the U.S. government.
North Korea has taken a number of Americans into custody for allegedly entering North Korea illegally in recent years. Most recently a Boston area man named Aijalon Mahli Gomes was arrested in January 2010 and sentenced to eight years hard labor, but he was retrieved by former president Jimmy Carter during a visit to Pyongyang in August..
A year earlier former president Bill Clinton retrieved two American journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who were detained along the frozen river that marks the border with China.
Carter is set to make a previously scheduled visit to North Korera later this month, but one U.S. official said there was "no expectation" that Carter would be bringing this American home with him.