Australia Probes Reports of Citizen Detained in North Korea

Australian student Alek Sigley is seen in an undated

Australian student Alek Sigley is seen in an undated

The family of a man who was reportedly detained in North Korea has not received confirmation from the government about it.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance.to the family of an Australian man who has been reported as being detained in North Korea", a spokesman said in a statement.

"The situation is that Alek has not been in digital contact with friends and family since Tuesday morning Australian time, which is unusual for him".

Mr Sigley is one of only a handful of Western students at Kim Il Sung University, where he studied Korean literature.

Mr Sigley's disappearance comes at a time of heightened tensions with North Korea and as world leaders gather in Osaka, Japan for a G-20 summit.

Chad O'Carroll, CEO of NKNews publisher the Korea Risk Group, said in a statement Sigley was a knowledgeable observer of North Korea and that the publication was surprised by reports of his sudden detention.

Speaking at the G20 summit in Japan, Scott Morrison said the man's whereabouts had been a topic of discussion with his global counterparts.

"We will continue to focus very sharply on that and seek to clarify what exactly has occurred and then take steps from there", he told national broadcaster ABC.

While authorities try to confirm what has happened to Sigley since he fell out of contact on Tuesday, he appears to have gone missing at a crucial time in geopolitics as Trump hits at a possible third with North Korea.

Sigley last posted a blog on the company's website on June 20, reviewing restaurants aimed at Pyongyang's middle-to-upper class.

"This has been done at the instigation of his family to limit unnecessary speculation and commentary on those channels".

"Alek's family and friends hope to hear from him soon", the family added.

CBS News' Australian partner Network Ten reports Sigley has been studying for a master's degree in Korean literature in Pyongyang, where he married his Japanese wife past year.

She revealed she did not notice anything out of place when they last spoke on Monday night.

"It's very concerning, I'm very concerned", he said.

Petrov says he was surprised by the news that Sigley, who he knew well, had been detained. "We don't even know if he's been detained or not". According to media reports, he was arrested.

"Nobody has really established a reputation for being able to virtually live tweet out of North Korea what he's having for dinner and breakfast and what people are wearing - that is something new", Executive Director of La Trobe Asia Euan Graham told Business Insider Australia.

Mr Short later told of gruelling daily interrogations and being kept under 24-hour guard, despite repeatedly saying he was not a spy and was not working with any South Korean connections.

Australia does not have an embassy in North Korea, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Dfat) is relying on representations from other countries, including Sweden and the United Kingdom, to make representations on their behalf in Pyongyang. "He was very diplomatic and sensible", said Petrov.

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