Published On: Wed, Aug 16th, 2017

North Korea REFUSES to release US prisoners given 'current state of relations'

Three Americans are currently detained by the hermit kingdom and are accused of “serious crimes” against the state.

A spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry said: “The issue of detained Americans is not a subject of discussion given the current state of relations.”

Pyongyang has jailed several US citizens over the past decade, often they are only released after high profile visits from US officials or former presidents.

US student Otto Warmbier was detained in January 2016 and sentenced to 15 years hard labour for allegedly trying to steal a political poster while visiting North Korea as a tourist.

He served 17 months and was sent home in a coma but died a week later.

His family said: “Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one he experienced.”

The circumstances of Mr Warmbier’s detention in North Korea remain a mystery, but relatives believe his condition suggests that he had been physically abused by his captors.

But North Korea claims the student fell into a coma after contracting botulism and being given a sleeping pill.

The Trump administration subsequently banned people from travelling to North Korea.

Last week North Korea released a 62-year-old Canadian pastor for medical reasons after detaining him for two and a half years.

Hyeon Soo Lim was on a humanitarian mission in Rajin, North Korea, on behalf of the Light Korean Presbyterian Church, which he had led since 1986, when he was arrested.

Mr Lim was serving a life sentence of hard labour for “crimes against the state” which he began in December 2015.

Just two years into his imprisonment the pastor suffered “dramatic” weight loss and health problems.

Tensions have been high in the Korean peninsula after the rogue state tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US last month.

But Kim Jong-un said on Tuesday that he would hold off the planned missile strike of the waters around US-territory Guam, but warned it would go ahead in the event of further “reckless actions” by Washington.

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