North Korea deported a US citizen who was detained last month after he “illegally entered our country through the border between North Korea and China,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency said Friday.
KCNA reports the US citizen, identified as Bruce Byron Lowrance, illegally entered North Korea on October 16 and testified that he did so. KCNA further reports that Lowrance claimed he entered North Korea under “the control of the US Central Intelligence Agency” during his testimony.
Lowrance was deported to the outside of the North Korean border, KCNA stated.
A spokesman for the US Embassy in Seoul told CNN he was unable to comment on individual cases “for privacy concerns.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement on Friday afternoon saying he appreciated “the cooperation” of North Korea and the embassy of Sweden in facilitating the release, though it did not mention Lowrance by name.
“The United States appreciates the cooperation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the embassy of Sweden in facilitating the release of an American citizen. The United States is grateful for the sustained support of Sweden, our protecting power in North Korea, for its advocacy on behalf of American citizens. The safety and well-being of Americans remains one of the highest priorities of the Trump Administration,” Pompeo said.
CNN has reached out to the South Korean government for further comment.
In 2017, a man with the same name was deported from South Korea after he was caught wandering near the North Korean border, according to the LA Times. They said he wanted to “help resolve the conflict” between Washington and Pyongyang.
News of Lowrance’s deportation coincides with KCNA reports Friday that North Korea tested a “newly developed ultramodern” weapon in an event supervised by leader Kim Jong Un. Denuclearization talks with the United States have stalled since Kim met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump earlier this year.
Very little is known about the weapon or whether it is even new, but the test is the latest sign that Pyongyang is prepared to return to a more militaristic relationship with Washington if negotiations continue to go poorly.
Satellite images released Monday showed over a dozen undeclared North Korean missile operating bases, further suggesting that the country is pursuing its ballistic missile program amid faltering talks.