US student arrested in North Korea for committing alleged 'hostile act' against the state

North Korea claims the US government had "tolerated and manipulated" Otto Frederick Warmbier

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Image: Andy Wong / AP/Press Association Images

A US university student has been arrested in North Korea on suspicion of committing a 'hostile act' against the state.

Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency named the University of Virginia student as Otto Frederick Warmbier.

The news agency alleges he was visiting as a tourist but plotting to destroy the country's unity, and was caught committing a hostile act against the state.

It is claimed Mr Warmbier has links to the US government and that the alleged act was "tolerated and manipulated" by the US.

Gareth Johnson of China-based Young Pioneer Tours confirmed Mr Warmbier was on one of its tours and said he had been detained in North Korea on January 2.

"We are in touch with Otto's family, the US State Department and the Embassy of Sweden in Pyongyang and doing all we can to secure his release," Mr Johnson said.

The Swedish Embassy represents US interests in North Korea.

It comes as the US State Department investigates reports of another US citizen being held by the secretive state.

CNN reported two weeks ago that a man who identified himself as Kim Dong Chul was an American citizen being held on espionage charges.

"I'm asking the US or South Korean government to rescue me," Mr Kim told a CNN correspondent through an interpreter at a hotel in Pyongyang.

If confirmed, the student would be the third Western citizen held in North Korea.

South Korean-born Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim was sentenced last month to hard labour for life, according to state media.