On Friday, North Korea publicized the arrest of a University of Virginia student, who authorities say committed a “hostile act.” Otto Frederick Warmbier, a 21-year-old from Cincinnati, traveled to North Korea for a five-day New Year’s vacation. The government claims to have taken Warmbier into custody for entering the country on a U.S. spying mission. Further, North Korea alleges that Warmbier plotted to destroy the country’s sense of “unity.”
The news of Warmbier’s arrest arrives at a crucial moment when many countries (including the U.S. and South Korea) are pushing the UN to impose harsh sanctions upon North Korea for its recent nuclear tests. This timing sounds like no mere coincidence for anyone familiar with Kim Jong-un’s past maneuverings during periods of increased political tension. The Washington Post spoke with the Korean Central News Agency, which alleges Warmbier wished to destroy the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:
“[Warmbier] was arrested while perpetrating a hostile act against the DPRK after entering it under the guise of tourist for the purpose of bringing down the foundation of its single-minded unity at the tacit connivance of the U.S. government and under its manipulation.”
North Korea makes many claims and is certainly known to exaggerate. CNN warns that — while China-based travel agents at Young Pioneer Tours have informed Warmbier’s family of his detainment — the U.S. government has not yet confirmed these reports.
Warmbier’s family took his Facebook page private, but CBS included some photos for their brief report on this developing story.