Australia unaware where NKorea holding missionary

AP News
Posted: Feb 20, 2014 8:47 AM

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Australia's foreign minister said Thursday her government was trying to find out where an Australian missionary was being held and what his condition was in North Korea.

The Australian government said earlier it would do its best to offer consular assistance to John Short, whose family said he was arrested Sunday in Pyongyang. Australia does not have a diplomatic office there and is being represented by the Swedish Embassy, making it difficult to obtain even basic details, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.

"We have made attempts through the Swedish counterparts to establish how he is, where he is and I'm waiting for reports on that so I am rather limited by what I can inform you," Bishop told a news conference in the Philippine capital, Manila.

The North Korean government has not made any statements on Short, 75, who has lived in Hong Kong for 50 years and has been arrested previously in China for evangelizing.

Bishop said she also has not yet spoken with Short's wife, Karen Short, who told The Associated Press that Short carried Korean-language Christian pamphlets into North Korea and she thought that might be the reason he was detained.

"She has described the assessment of the risk that he took," Bishop said.

While North Korea's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, in practice only sanctioned services are tolerated by the government.

Last year, American missionary Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after being accused of committing hostile acts in North Korea.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott urged citizens to obey the laws of foreign countries when they are abroad.

"If you are in another country, be careful to obey their laws. If you're in trouble, the Australian government is there to do its best to help," Abbott told reporters in Sydney.