Australia probes reports of citizen detained in North Korea

Jun 28, 2019, 00:36
Australia probes reports of citizen detained in North Korea

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs is now seeking confirmation on the whereabouts and well-being of 29-year-old citizen Alek Sigley, who studies literature and runs a tour company in Pyongyang, North Korea, ABC News reported.

"Rumors have said that Trump might hold a surprise meeting with Kim near the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjeom".

He also dismissed as false the comments by Moon and other South Korean officials that there are various exchanges and unofficial talks between the two Koreas.

Air Force One likewise touched down after the Crown Prince's arrival, with US President Donald Trump and his entourage aboard for the G20 meeting.

The department of foreign affairs said it was in contact with the family of a man "who has been reported as being detained in North Korea".

The article also reiterated North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's end-of-the-year deadline for the United States to change its approach to the nuclear talks.

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In contrast, US officials have raised hopes for a restart of official talks following a recent exchange of letters between Trump and Kim.

"The United States doesn't have much time left if it were to move to produce results".

Australia does not have a diplomatic mission of its own in North Korea, but consular assistance can be provided to the country's nationals by the Swedish embassy on a limited basis.

If the North had to contact Washington, it can use the "already existing communication channel", he said, stressing it will "never be done through the South Korean government".

"This particular jurisdiction, most Australians' common sense would tell them makes this a matter of the utmost seriousness", M Porter said.

North Korea stoked ire in the USA when college student Otto Warmbier died in 2017 following more than a year of captivity in the Asian country.

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But starting this month, a glimmer of hope started rekindling over the possible resumption of the nuclear talks between the two, with Trump and Kim engaging in a letter exchange through which both sides reiterated their bilateral trust.

But the North Korean Foreign Ministry statement on Thursday denied the existence of any inter-Korean talks, and rejected the notion of Seoul as a mediator.

As for the sanctions, so today some 80-plus percent of the North Korean economy is sanctioned. The North tested new short-range missiles in May and Washington imposed fresh sanctions and seized a North Korean ship suspected of illicit coal shipments.

The US president's trip to Seoul comes a week after Chinese leader Xi Jinping made a highly symbolic visit to Pyongyang.

He was careful to avoid political commentary on his social media platforms, instead focusing on what he called North Korea's modernisation, its food and its architecture.

The son of an Anglo-Australian and Chinese mother, he wrote in the Guardian Australia earlier this year that he previously studied Asian studies and went to university in China where he gained an interest in North Korea. Since then, North Korea has ignored US requests to restart working level talks.

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"The south Korean authorities have nothing to meddle in", he added.

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