International desk, August 27: North Korea has said it is freeing a detained Japanese tourist on humanitarian grounds.There is very little information available on Tomoyuki Sugimoto, but he was known to have been arrested earlier this month.
North Korea has not said why he was arrested, only that he was breaking the law. Japanese media said he could have been filming a military facility.
Tourists visiting North Korea are strictly monitored at all times.
The secretive country has often jailed tourists before – sometimes for arbitrary reasons – and used them as bargaining tools in its negotiations with their home states.
Among the most noted recent detainees was Otto Warmbier, a US student who was jailed for stealing a hotel sign.
He was also released on humanitarian grounds, but arrived home critically ill and died a few days later.
Mr Sugimoto, thought to be in his late 30s, is believed to have been detained while with a tour group in Nampo, on the west coast.
Nampo – or Nanpo – is known to be home to a naval base and weapons factory.
The official state news agency KCNA said he had been “kept under control by a relevant institution to be inquired into his crime against the law”.
But officials had decided to “leniently condone him” and expel him “on the principle of humanitarianism”. It did not specify when he would be freed, but prisoner releases usually happen soon after such a statement.
Japan and North Korea do not have any diplomatic relationship.
And as well as joining most of the world in demanding that Pyongyang abandon its missile and nuclear programme, Japan has repeatedly pushed for information on Japanese citizens abducted by the North.
The citizens were seized in the 1970s and 80s and forcibly taken to North Korea to train personnel in Japanese language and culture.
Japan has insisted there can be no progress on sanctions relief or aid to North Korea until the issue has been resolved.