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North Korea releases jailed Canadian pastor amid tensions with US

As President Trump leveled a warning at the hermit kingdom via tweet, a Canadian pastor was freed early, although there is no clear link between this incident and the escalation of tensions between the US and North Korea.

South Korea-born Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim stands during his trial at a North Korean court in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Dec. 16, 2015. Mr. Lim was released early from his life sentence on Wednesday following heated warnings between the US and North Korea.
Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)/Reuters
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Caption
  • Ben Blanchard and Soyoung Kim
    Associated Press

North Korea freed a Canadian pastor serving a life sentence there on humanitarian grounds, the official KCNA news agency said on Wednesday, just hours after the United States warned it would counter any threat from the North with "fire and fury."

The release came a day after Canadian officials said a delegation led by the country's national security adviser had traveled to North Korea to discuss the case of Hyeon Soo Lim, sentenced to hard labor for life in Dec. 20.

North Korea had accused Pastor Lim, who served in one of the largest churches in Canada, of attempting to overthrow the regime.

"Rim Hyon-su, a Canadian civilian, was released on sick bail according to the decision of the Central Court of the DPRK on Aug. 9, 2017, from the humanitarian viewpoint," KCNA said, using the country's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

There was no obvious direct connection between the release and the standoff with the United States, but North Korea has in the past attracted the attention of Washington, and visits by high-profile Americans, with the detention and release of US citizens.

Lim's family had become more concerned for his welfare since the death in June of American student Otto Warmbier, who had been held in North Korea for 17 months.

Mr. Warmbier, sentenced last year to 15 years' hard labor for trying to steal a propaganda item from his hotel during a tour, died in a Cincinnati hospital just days after being released in a coma. The circumstances of his death remain unclear.

North Korea is still holding three Americans. The US State Department said last week it would ban US nationals from traveling to the isolated country, beginning in September.

Lim's Toronto-area church has said he visited the North more than 100 times since 1997 and helped set up an orphanage and nursing home. Last year, Lim told CNN he spent eight hours a day digging holes at a labor camp where he had not seen any other prisoners.

On Wednesday, North Korea said it was considering plans for a missile strike on the US Pacific territory of Guam, just hours after President Trump told the North that any threat to the US would be met with "fire and fury."

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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