With no end to mounting tensions in sight, news broke Sunday that North Korea has detained yet another U.S. citizen.
As Fox News reports, North Korean state media announced that government officials had apprehended American Kim Hak Song on Saturday over “unspecified hostile acts against the country.”
According to state media, Kim Hak Song had traveled to the country to work with the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) and has been described as “a Christian missionary who intended to start an experimental farm at PUST.”
While details remain sparse, North Korean state media added that “a relevant institution is now conducting detailed investigation into his crimes.”
With his detention, Kim Hak Song becomes the fourth American citizen to be held in custody by the North Korean government.
The others include Tony Kim — also known as Kim Sang Duk — an accounting professor at PUST who was accused of trying to overthrow the North Korean government and was “intercepted” at the Pyongyang International Airport on April 22:
A 22-year-old University of Virginia student named Otto Warmbier, who was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a North Korean propaganda banner:
And Kim Dong Chul, who in April 2016 was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor after he was accused of espionage and trying “to spread religion among North Koreans”:
According to experts, the detaining of these Americans amounts to “hostage diplomacy” on the part of Kim Jong Un's regime, noting that the situation “can certainly hamper and limit options the U.S. can take over North Korea” — including in terms of any military action.
While U.S.-North Korea relations have appeared to deteriorate rapidly as of late, the U.S. State Department has confirmed it is aware of Kim Hak Song's case, adding that “the security of U.S. citizens is one of the department's highest priorities.”