North Korea has denied abducting an American citizen, who went missing during a hiking trip to China in 2004. David Sneddon, aged 24 at the time, disappeared from the Yunnan Province and officials concluded that he had fallen into a river, however, his body was never found.
Last month, a spokesperson for South Korea's Abductees' Family Union told Yahoo News Japan that Sneddon had been spotted in Pyongyang. The US State Department has taken the information seriously and vowed at the time to conduct a search for him, however, North Korea has now hit back at what it says is a "fictitious story".
"We flatly deny and categorically reject this far-fetched assentation as a swindle which does not deserve even a passing note," a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) said. "This is just a plot hatched by the Obama group... to dramatise the non-existent 'human rights issues' of the DPRK and tarnish its international image."
Some of the theories that have emerged about the disappeared American student is that he was abducted by North Korean government agents to teach English due to his fluency in Korean. Reports have also emerged that he was forced to teach a young Kim Jong-un English.
A member of Sneddon's family told the Federalist on 5 October: "The US State Deparment has written to our family to inform us that the state is working to verify the recent reports out of South Korea that David was seen alive in Pyongyang and tutored the current dictator in the English language."
Senator Mike Lee of Utah has also introduced a Concurrent Resolution in Congress, which urges the State Department to investigate more thoroughly Sneddon's disappearance without blindly accepting what Chinese authorities have said. A number of eyewitnesses at the point where Sneddon allegedly fell into a river have told his family that they remember encountering a tall, white Korean-speaking man.
Tensions have been high between the US and North Korea since Pyongyang conducted its fifth and largest nuclear test last month. Kim Jong-un's government has repeatedly lashed out at the Obama administration for its criticism of the nuclear test, as well as threatened it with a "merciless nuclear strike".
"The people of the DPRK are now burning with hatred for the sworn enemies," a spokesperson for the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee in Pyongyang said following the nuclear test. "The DPRK is fully ready to mercilessly strike brutal provocateurs keen on sanctions... and wipe them out to the last man any moment."