Wednesday, 17 Jul 2024

North Korea releases US detainee claiming to be under CIA's command

The US citizen, who crossed into secretive country from China, had reportedly told his captors that he was “under the control of the CIA”.

He has been identified as Bruce Byron Lawrence.

A man of the same name, who was in his 50s, was deported from South Korea in November 2017 after he was found wandering near the heavily fortified border with North Korea – and was flown back to the US.

He reportedly told South Korean officials he wanted to facilitate talks between Pyongyang and Washington – despite not being part of the government.

Military police and intelligence officials who interrogated him said they did not believe he was “psychologically disturbed”.

It is unusual for North Korea to release an American detainee so quickly, and the latest release comes amid stalled negotiations over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.

Most Americans held by North Korea, from journalists to missionaries, have only been released after high-profile interventions.

Three US detainees were released in May in an apparent goodwill gesture before a summit between the North’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore.

Mr Trump greeted them on their arrival near Washington after they travelled home with Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state.

Their release differed dramatically from American student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested in North Korea for alleged spying after taking a propaganda poster from a hotel room.

He died last year – days after being released from North Korea in a coma following 17 months in captivity.

North Korea denied torturing him and said they were surprised by Mr Warmbier’s death – and went on to claim they provided medical care “with all sincerity”.

Currently, there are no known US detainees held by the communist state.

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