North Korea to Expel US Citizen Detained for Illegally Entering State

North Korea said on Friday (Nov 16) it had expelled a USA citizen who tried to enter illegally, an unusually swift resolution of a case that could have further complicated reconciliation moves between the two countries.

The US national, named Bruce Byron Lowrance, was detained in North Korea in October after he illegally crossed the border from China, the South Korean Yonhap news agency reported, citing a message carried by the North Korean state-run News Agency (KCNA).

"While being questioned, he said he had illegally entered the country under the command of the US Central Intelligence Agency", KCNA said.

Bryon, who is in his late 50s and from Louisiana, was later deported back to the United States.

"As North Korea clearly could have held this American citizen to gain leverage in up and down nuclear negotiations, that Pyongyang released this person is a good a sign".

It marked the first official report of a weapons test by North Korea since it began the delicate diplomatic process with Washington.

The reclusive regime freed three US detainees in May in an apparent goodwill gesture before a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump in Singapore.

North Korea in the past has held arrested American citizens for an extended period before high-profile US figures travelled to Pyongyang to secure their freedom.

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The three men travelled home with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and were greeted by Trump on their arrival at an air base near Washington.

"We watch North Korea closely", Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Logan, a spokesman at the Pentagon, said in an email, while declining to further comment on the details of the reported test and the unspecified tactical weapon.

In the meantime, while negotiations on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula continue, the North Korea regime has tested a new "high-tech" weapon.

Currently, there are no known USA detainees held by the rigid communist state. "North Korea is saying 'If you don't listen to us, you will face political burdens, '" analyst Shin Beom-chul of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul told the Associated Press.

However, the bilateral nuclear talks have stalled as Pyongyang has blamed Washington for demanding the North's unilateral nuclear disarmament amid a lack of corresponding offers such as sanction relief.

"The welfare and safety of USA citizens overseas is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State", the spokesman said.

On the other hand, a source in the South Korean government told CNN the weapon tested by North Korea was merely an artillery piece, most likely a "multiple rocket launcher".

The latest release comes just a year after university student Otto Warmbier died only days after he arrived from North Korea in a coma after spending 17 months in their captivity.

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