Pyongyang, 10 years hard labor for a US citizen

Kim Dong-chul, who was born in South Korea and arrested in October 2016, was found in possession of a USB memory stick with within military and nuclear secrets. This is the latest detention of a foreign national, a tactic the North exploits for economic and diplomatic gains. UN Security Council convenes emergency meeting after latest missile test.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - North Korea has sentenced an American citizen to 10 years hard labor, finding him guilty of espionage, reports China’s Xinhua news agency. The condemned man is Kim Dong-chul, he was born in South Korea and arrested in October 2016. The man was brought in front of a group of North journalists in March to "confess" he was paid by the Seoul government to export State secrets from the Stalinist country.

Also in March a young American student, Otto Warmbier, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of stealing Workers Party propaganda and other "crimes against the state". Kim was instead found in possession of a USB memory stick containing military and nuclear secrets. The man was arrested during a visit to the Special Economic Zone of Rason.

The sentencing comes in one of the most tense periods in the history of foreign relations for Pyongyang. After the fourth nuclear test in January, the Kim Jong-il regime carried out a series of missile tests, condemned repeatedly by the United Nations. Yesterday the Northern army tried to launch two missiles, which exploded shortly after takeoff. The UN Security Council has called an emergency meeting to discuss the matter.

The arrest of foreign citizens has long been one of the North Korean government's key tactics  for easing economic sanctions or other benefits from the nations involved. In addition to the young Warmbier, arrested in March 2016, others recently arrested are: Hyeon-Soo Lim, Canadian Christian pastor sentenced to life imprisonment in December 2015; Sandra Suh, American, stopped and expelled in April 2015; Matthew Todd Miller, American, sentenced to six years in September 2014 and released in November of the same year; Kenneth Bae, born South Korean American, who was sentenced to 15 years in May 2013 and released along with Miller; Jeffrey Fowle, released in October 2015.