North Korea says it will deport a U.S. citizen who entered the country illegally from neighboring China last month — a move seen as a conciliatory gesture aimed at maintaining ties with Washington.
North Korea’s official KCNA news agency identified the American as Bruce Byron Lowrance and said that he had told his captors that he was controlled by the CIA.
According to Reuters, “An American man of the same name was deported from South Korea in November 2017 after being found wandering near the heavily fortified border with North Korea, but there was no immediate confirmation of the identity of the man held by North Korea.”
As The Associated Press notes, the announcement of a quick release, “suggests that North Korea still wants to maintain the mood for dialogue with the United States despite stalled nuclear diplomacy.”
The deportation announced Friday stands in sharp contrast to North Korea’s treatment of American citizens detained by authorities there in the past.
American college student Otto Warmbier, arrested in North Korea in 2016, was tried on charges of attempted theft, allegedly for trying to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel room. He was sentenced to 15 years hard labor, but was later released in a state of a coma and died days later.
In May, the Trump administration secured the release of three Americans, Kim Dong Chul, Kim Hak Song and Tony Kim, who had been held on espionage charges. The release of the three was seen as a good will gesture by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ahead of a summit in Singapore with President Trump the following month.