WASHINGTON - North Korea has informed the United States it is holding a second U.S. citizen, the State Department said on Friday.
"We have been informed by the North Korean government that it is holding an American citizen who allegedly entered North Korea from China on January 25," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters.
The spokesman said the United States did not know the U.S. citizen's identity and was seeking access to him through Sweden, which represents U.S. interests in North Korea because Washington and Pyongyang do not have diplomatic relations.
North Korea's official news agency said on Thursday it had detained an American who crossed into its territory from China, accusing the man of "trespassing" and saying that it was interrogating him.
A major South Korean newspaper, the Dong-A Ilbo, quoted unnamed sources as saying the border crosser was a 28-year-old man who entered the socialist North because no longer wanted to live in the capitalist world.
The man crossed from China into North Korea around January 25, saying he wanted to join North Korea's army, it said in its online edition.
Leading activist groups in South Korea and government officials have not been able to identify the border crosser.
North Korea has been holding another U.S. citizen, activist Robert Park, captured in December when he crossed into the reclusive state saying he planned to raise awareness about its human rights abuses.
Analysts have said North Korea may try to use Park as a bargaining chip with the United States in high-stakes negotiations over curbing the North's nuclear ambitions.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington and Cheon Jong-woo in Seoul; Editing by Eric Walsh and Jerry Norton)