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North Korea arrests American; continues shelling near disputed border

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Kim Ju-sung/Yonhap/Reuters

(Read caption) Caves with coastal artillery are seen at the North Korean village of Jangyeon, where North Korea's military units are stationed, as Chinese fishing boats move by, in this photo taken from South Korea's Baegnyeong island on Thursday.

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North Korea has arrested an unidentified American for illegally entering its territory, reports said Thursday, as Pyongyang kept up its military provocations by firing artillery shells for a second day near a disputed maritime border with the South.

As recently as last month, observers were cautiously optimistic about reduced tensions between the United States and North Korea. Now, with the arrest and the continued artillery firing, Pyongyang's mixed messages have analysts and diplomats scratching their heads. "North Korea 'has been blowing hot and cold,'" Wi Sung Lac, the South’s chief nuclear envoy, told the Monitor.

North Korea's state-run news agency reported that the unidentified American had illegally crossed into North Korea from China on Monday, and was now being interrogated, according to The New York Times. The American is now the second man in Pyongyang's custody, the Times said, after another was seized last month for also illegally crossing into the reclusive country from China.

He [the first detained man] is believed to be Robert Park, an American missionary who South Korean activists say crossed the frozen river border on Christmas Day carrying a letter urging the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, to shut down prison camps.
Washington has no diplomatic ties with North Korea and is working through the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang to seek consular access to Mr. Park, 28.

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