22 Mar 2009

North Korea confirms detention of American journalists

1:56 pm on 22 March 2009

North Korea has confirmed it has detained two Americans, saying they had illegally entered the country by crossing the border with China.

South Korean media and diplomatic sources said this week North Korean security officials detained the two women who were filming across the Tumen River from the Chinese side of the border.

North Korea's official news agency KCNA said on Saturday the Americans were detained on 17 March while illegally intruding into North Korean territory. It said the case is being investigated, but gave no further details.

Reports have said the two women were working for US-based online news company Current TV.

A diplomatic source said earlier the reporters were on the frozen Tumen river when taken by North Korean security guards. The Tumen runs along the eastern section of the border with China.

Washington said on Friday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was trying to resolve the issue over the two journalists.

The arrests come at a time of mounting tension as the North has said it will launch a satellite early in April as part of its space communication programme.

US officials say the launch is intended to test a rocket that could potentially carry a warhead as far as US territory.

Hotline reopened

North Korea reopened a military hotline with the South on Saturday, a day after Washington and Seoul ended annual defence drills.

North Korea cut the military hotline, the only telephone link between the two Koreas, at the start of the annual US-South Korean drills on 9 March.

A spokesman for Seoul's unification ministry said it was restored earlier on Saturday.

But the move did not signal the North was ready to tone down its rhetoric ahead of the planned rocket launch.

North Korean media on Saturday called the drills the "biggest manoeuvres for a nuclear war against the DPRK (North Korea) in history in terms of the aggressor forces involved and their duration".