North Korea to Expel Japanese Tourist Accused of Crime

Vastavam web: Japanese government officials said today that they were trying to ensure the safety of a Japanese tourist whom North Korea said it had expelled after detaining him on unspecified charges. The official Korean Central News Agency said late Sunday that Japanese tourist Tomoyuki Sugimoto had been “kept under control” for questioning about “his crime,” without specifying what he had been accused of.

In a two-sentence report, the news agency said the authorities decided to “to leniently condone him” and expel him on the principle of humanitarianism. Japan’s government confirmed about two weeks ago that it was looking into reports that one of its citizens was being held in North Korea, but has not identified the person by name.

Japan’s Kyodo News agency, citing a government source, said the person was believed to be a videographer in his 30s and may have been suspected of shooting video of a military facility while on a group tour to Nampo, a port city in western North Korea. The government had sought his release through the North Korean Embassy in Beijing, Kyodo said. Japan does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea. American college student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested by North Korean authorities in January 2016 after being accused of stealing a propaganda poster and sentenced to 15 years in prison, died in June 2017, days after he was repatriated to the U.S. with severe brain damage.

Their arrests were widely seen as politically motivated and had compounded the dire state of relations over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme. If the Japanese man’s release is confirmed, his repatriation will have come quicker than some of earlier cases. A Japanese correspondent for the Nikkei newspaper was detained in North Korea for more than two years after being taken into custody on spying charges in Pyongyang in December 1999.