North Korea’s Supreme Court has sentenced American detainee Matthew Miller to six years of hard labor, an article on state media outlet the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Sunday.
The sentence handed down by North Korea’s highest legal body comes after Miller was detained in April for allegedly destroying his tourist visa and announcing his intention to seek asylum.
State Department spokesperson Darby Holladay told NK News that “there is no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad”.
“We request the DPRK pardon Matthew “Todd” Miller and Kenneth Bae and grant them amnesty and immediate release so they may reunite with their families”, he continued.
“Out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle and his family,” he added, “we request the DPRK grant him amnesty and immediate release so he may return home”.
“The Department of State strongly recommends against all travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea”.
In reports released after his trial, KCNA said that Miller “committed acts hostile to the DPRK while entering the territory of the DPRK under the guise of a tourist in last April”.
Miller appeared in an interview with CNN earlier in the month, alongside fellow detainees Bae and Fowle in which they expressed their hopes for U.S. intervention and release. Miller told CNN correspondent Will Ripley that his situation was “very urgent, that very soon I am going to trial, and I would directly be sent to prison”.
In contrast, North Korea repatriated a South Korean citizen back to southern authorities on Thursday after a failed defection to the DPRK via a third country.
“The court sentenced him to six years of hard labor,” the report said, which was only three sentences long.
Miller becomes the second U.S. citizen to be sentenced to hard labor in the DPRK with Kenneth Bae receiving a sentence of 15 years for preaching Christianity within the country.
A third U.S. citizen still in detention, Jeffrey Edward Fowle, was also arrested in April for leaving a bible in a restaurant but has yet to be sentenced.
Miller appeared in an interview with CNN earlier in the month, alongside fellow detainees Bae and Fowle in which they expressed their hopes for U.S. intervention and release.
Miller told CNN correspondent Will Ripley that his situation was “very urgent, that very soon I am going to trial, and I would directly be sent to prison”.
Miller, 24, attracted international attention in April when KCNA reports said that he, upon entering the North, destroyed his tourist visa and announced his intention to seek asylum.
State media reported the incident in late April, two weeks after it reportedly took place.
Matthew Miller Todd grew up in the Californian town of Bakersfield, the son of petroleum engineers, and first visited Korea four years ago to stay with a brother stationed with the US Air Force where he found work teaching English.
Photo credit: KCNA