North Korea releases Japanese detainee

North Korean state media announced on Sunday that the government planned to release a detained Japanese tourist “on the principle of humanitarianism.”

The man, who is in his 30s, was arrested earlier this month during a visit to North Korea that was arranged by a travel agency in China, Japanese Kyodo News reported, citing an unnamed Japanese government source.

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He was reportedly taken into custody for shooting video footage of a military facility in the western city of Nampo. The North Korean regime has a long history of arresting foreigners on charges of spying and then using them as diplomatic pawns.

“Tomoyuki Sugimoto, who visited the DPRK as a Japanese tourist recently, was kept under control by a relevant institution to be inquired into his crime against the law of the DPRK,” the state-run KCNA news agency said.

“The relevant institution of the DPRK decided to leniently condone him and expel him from the DPRK on the principle of humanitarianism,” KCNA added.

Tokyo had been urging Pyongyang to release the man. The North Korean overture comes as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe floated the idea of holding a summit with the Kim Jong-Un to resolve all pending issues and work on building “new Japan-North Korea relations”.

Historically, the relationship between Japan and North Korea has been sour. The Japanese have largely maintained a hard line on Pyongyang, while North Korea regularly condemns Japan for its brutal 1910-1945 colonization of the peninsula.

jcg/bw (dpa, AFP)

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