The detention of another American man on charges of committing “hostile acts” against North Korea appears to be a new method that Pyongyang is employing to retaliate against the sanctions imposed on it by the United States. The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) has indicated that they have arrested the man and his activities are under investigation by the authorities.

How it all came to light?

According to the New York Times, the individual was employed in a privately funded institution in the capital. It started operation in 2010 and was funded by donations from Evangelical Christian movements outside the country.

KCNA has not provided any further information but this would be the fourth detention of an American in North Korea. Officials in the United States are in the know and plan to pursue the matter through the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang because there is no formal diplomatic relation with them and Sweden serves as the mediator in consular affairs when Americans are detained in the country.

It seems another American was detained at the Pyongyang airport on April 22 while he was trying to leave the country but it is not clear if there is any link between the two detentions. The situation is tense and the slightest provocation could precipitate a crisis. Hence, everyone has to tread with caution.

Reasons for the detentions

The adamant attitude of North Korea with regard to testing of ballistic missiles in recent weeks has forced the United States to take retaliatory action by dispatching an aircraft carrier strike group to the Korean peninsula. It was a show of force and Pyongyang saw red. Their intermittent threat to attack the U.S.

is gradually losing its cutting edge and observers feel that the detention of Americans is its method to maintain the balance.

Apart from the two latest detentions, there are two other persons already held by North Korea. One of them is sentenced to 15-years hard labor – he was accused of trying to steal a political banner from a hotel in Pyongyang.

The other man is serving out his sentence of 10-years hard labor on charges of spying.

Pyongyang has realized that, in order to survive, it must dream up strategies that would pay dividends and holding Americans in detention could be one of the methods. It is an arm twisting tactic and could lay the groundwork for a deal with the U.S. because the latest sanctions are hurting and there is an urgent need to work out an escape route.