Two Americans held in North Korea plead for help from US

Matthew Miller, left, and Jeffrey Edward Fowle - 1 August 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Matthew Miller, left, and Jeffrey Edward Fowle were detained separately in North Korea in April

Two American tourists charged with "anti-state" crimes in North Korea have pleaded for the US government to help secure their release.

Matthew Miller and Jeffrey Fowle told the AP news agency they expected to be tried soon and given long prison terms.

The two men said they were in good health and had been treated well but expected conditions to get worse.

They were detained separately in April but both were accused of "committing hostile acts" while in the country.

Mr Fowle, 56, entered North Korea on 29 April and was detained in early June as he was leaving the country

He is said to have left a bible in the toilet of a restaurant in the northern port city of Chongjin but his family have insisted that he was not on a mission for his church.

North Korean authorities say Mr Miller, 24, entered the country on 10 April with a tourist visa but tore it up at the airport and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption North Korea is holding several US citizens and has been accused of using them as bargaining chips

Speaking for the first time since being detained more than three months ago, Mr Miller said "the horizon for me is pretty dark.

"I don't know what the worst-case scenario would be, but I need help to extricate myself from this situation. I have been requesting help from the American government, but have received no reply," he added.

It is unclear whether North Korean officials were in the room at the time of the interview or if the men were being coerced.

Authorities say they are preparing to bring the men before a court, but the charges or potential punishment have not been specified. The date of the trial has not been announced.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Korean-US citizen Kenneth Bae was detained in December 2012 and sentenced to 15 years' hard labour

North Korea has in the past been accused of using arrested Americans as diplomatic bargaining chips.

The US wants Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions in return for economic and diplomatic incentives, but talks on a deal agreed in 2007 have been stalled for several years.

Religious activity is severely restricted in North Korea and missionaries have been arrested on many previous occasions.

Kenneth Bae, the highest-profile of the currently detained Americans, was sentenced to 15 years' hard labour in May 2013 after being accused of planning to overthrow the government.

Other US detainees in North Korea

  • Eddie Jun Yong-su: Businessman detained for six months in 2011, freed after a visit led by US envoy Robert King
  • Aijalon Mahli Gomes: Teacher and Christian jailed in 2010 for eight years over illegal entry via China - freed after ex-US President Jimmy Carter visited Pyongyang
  • Robert Park: US activist crossed into North Korea via China in late 2009 - freed in 2010 by North Korea
  • Laura Ling and Euna Lee: Journalists jailed in 2009 for 12 years over illegal entry via the Chinese border - freed after ex-US President Bill Clinton met former NK leader Kim Jong-il

US citizens held by N Korea

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