Tuesday, April 12, 2011

American detained in North Korea

(CNN) -- An American man has been detained in North Korea, two State Department officials told CNN.

The State Department is working with the Swedish Embassy in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, the officials said. The United States is urging North Korean authorities, through the Swedes, to release the man on humanitarian grounds.

Sweden represents America's interests in North Korea because the United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations.

The Swedes have been granted consular access to the man and have visited him, the officials said. The Swedes are asking for regular visits, the officials said.

A Swedish official in Stockholm confirmed to CNN that the embassy in Pyongyang is working on the case.

The sources declined to provide additional information because of privacy concerns.

North Korea has detained several Americans in recent years, increasing tension levels in what is already a rocky relationship between Pyongyang and Washington.

In 2010, former President Jimmy Carter helped secure the release of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, a U.S. citizen who had been fined roughly $600,000 and sentenced to eight years of hard labor for crossing over the Chinese border into North Korea.

Gomes was believed to be a Christian activist.

Two American journalists -- Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who had entered North Korea in March 2009 and were arrested and sentenced to 12 years hard labor -- were released in August 2009 after an intervention by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer contributed to this report