North Korea: Imprisoned American wanted to become ‘second Snowden’
(CNN) — An American sentenced in North Korea ripped up his visa so he could go to prison and expose human rights violations there, state media said Saturday.
Matthew Todd Miller was convicted of committing “acts hostile” to North Korea and sentenced to six years of hard labor last week.
Saturday’s report in the state-run Korean Central News Agency boldly heaped blame on Miller, claiming his acts were a preconceived plan to gain notoriety.
The 24-year-old from Bakersfield, California, arrived in North Korea as a tourist in April.
After his arrival, he tore his visa at Pyongyang’s airport and shouted his desire to seek asylum, according to KCNA.
State media described him as “rudely behaved,” saying he was sent to infiltrate prison as part of a United States campaign against North Korea.
“He perpetrated the above-said acts in the hope of becoming a world famous guy and the second Snowden through intentional hooliganism,” state media said.
Edward Snowden got asylum from Russia, where he fled last year after leaking classified U.S. government documents.
Once sentenced, Miller hoped to meet Kenneth Bae, another American detained in North Korea.
He planned to secure Bae’s release so both can serve as “witnesses” to the human rights violations in the nation, state media said.
“The crime committed by Miller Matthew Todd was prompted by his sinister political aim to deliberately slander the DPRK,” it said.
DPRK refers to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Its government is a communist dictatorship renowned for human rights abuses.
Washington demands release
The U.S. State Department has demanded that North Korea release Miller and Bae, and American Jeffrey Fowle.
Fowle, 56, was arrested in June while traveling as a tourist.
Bae, who was detained in 2012, has been accused of planning to bring down the government through religious activities. He was moved from a hospital to a labor camp.
Miller talks to CNN
Earlier this month, Miller told CNN’s Will Ripley that he “prepared to violate the law of DPRK before coming here. And I deliberately committed my crime.”
But Miller didn’t elaborate on what his “crime” was. He said he wouldn’t learn of his charges until he went to trial.
It’s unclear whether his statements were made freely or under coercion.
First stop was South Korea
Miller’s family lives in Bakersfield, and he is a 2008 graduate of Bakersfield High School, according to CNN affiliate KBAK.
In a July interview, a neighbor told The Associated Press that Miller went to South Korea about four years ago to visit his brother and started teaching English.
He traveled to North Korea this year after arranging a private tour through the U.S.-based company Uri Tours, which takes tourists into North Korea.
Uri Tours has said it doesn’t have “any understanding of why” Miller ripped up his visa.
The company offers tours despite U.S. State Department warnings about arbitrary arrest and detention in North Korea.
CNN’s Madison Park contributed to this report.