Canadian officials back in North Korea to discuss imprisoned pastor

Canadian officials back in North Korea to discuss imprisoned pastor

North Korea said on Wednesday that it has released an imprisoned Canadian pastor for humanitarian reasons amid escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula.

He was serving a life sentence of hard labor after being convicted in December 2015 for crimes against the state.

A top Canadian official arrived in North Korea on Tuesday (8 August) seeking to get a jailed pastor released, following fears he might suffer the same fate as American student Otto Warmbier.

North Korea in retaliation threatened a missile strike on the US Pacific territory of Guam and said North Korea would "turn the US mainland into the theater of a nuclear war" at any sign of an impending American attack.

A plane carrying medical personnel, senior Canadian officials, and a letter to Kim Jong-un were sent to Pyongyang.

Warmbier was in a coma when released by North Korean authorities, which according to the DPRK, was due to a rare case of botulism he contracted shortly after his sentencing in 2016.

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Mr Lim was convicted and sentenced in 2015 on charges of trying to use religion to destroy the North Korean system and helping US and South Korean authorities lure and abduct North Korean citizens.

During his detention or trial, Mr. Lim's family members were not allowed to visit him, and appealed repeatedly to North Korea to free him.

Ms Pak said in statement to CNN: "We are relieved to hear that Reverend Lim is on his way home to finally reunite with his family and meet his granddaughter for the first time". His supporters have said he was on a humanitarian mission to North Korea when he was detained.

He is the second foreign citizen to be released on what the North Koreans have termed "humanitarian grounds" in 2017, following the release of US citizen Otto Warmbier in June.

He had carried out religious work and helped open an orphanage, and nursing home during one of what his family said was more than 100 visits. He was subsequently sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

Tensions between North Korea and the US are on the rise, as North Korea has threatened to take punitive action against the response to new sanctions, as well as other perceived provocations.