Mystery of U.S. Prisoner in North Korea Emerges: Brother of Matthew Miller was Elite U.S. Fighter Pilot in S. Korea
By Nate Thayer
November 8, 2014
U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made an unprecedented secret visit to North Korea and “engaged in negotiations on behalf of the United States government” resulting in the release of two American prisoners today.
Clapper is the most senior U.S. official to visit North Korea in 15 years. The significance of the highest level meeting between the two governments since the last century indicates a shift in U.S. and North Korean relations much deeper than the issue of the two prisoners, reflecting a possible major policy change by both Pyongyang, but more significantly, Washington.
There was “no quid pro quo”, according to the U.S. State Department, to the release of the two prisoners, who are accompanying U.S. Director of National Intelligence Clapper now en route to the United States.
“We can confirm that U.S. citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller have been allowed to depart the DPRK and are on their way home, accompanied by DNI Clapper, to re-join their families,” a rare statement published by the office of the Director of National Intelligence said on Saturday.
The Strange Case of Mathew Todd Miller
In contrast to the extensive public profile and activities known of Christian evangelist Keneth Bae, virtually nothing is known about Mathew Todd Miller.
The U.S. government and Miller’s family went to extraordinary measures to keep Miller’s biography free from any public scrutiny. His family and the U.S. government implemented a total lockdown on any information on the 25 year-old Bakersfield, California native and have refused any comment on why Miller may have gone to the isolated nation.
Several sources indicated that Miller had mental health issues which may have played a part in his still unexplained reasons for travelling to the world’s most repressive nation.
One reason why the U.S. government and Miller’s family went to such extensive lengths to enforce a blackout on any details of Miller’s background or biography may be that his older brother, Air Force Major Robert Dean Miller, is an active duty U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who was stationed in South Korea when his brother, arrested American Mathew Todd Miller, travelled to visit him.
In September, when Mathew Miller was sentenced to prison for espionage, the U.S. air force requested that Miller’s relationship with his brother not be made public, arguing that if North Korea was aware of those details “it could put the life of Mathew Miller in danger.”
Air Force officials confirmed that Mathew Todd Miller’s older brother is an elite test pilot for the F-35 fighter jet–the most sophisticated new generation combat aircraft in the U.S. military air arsenal which the United States agreed recently to sell to South Korea and which Pyongyang has vigorously publicly objected to.
North Korea has made at least 43 public statements in recent months objecting to the sale of the sophisticated F-35 warplanes to South Korea.
Mathew Miller’s online footprint was intentionally scrubbed from the internet upon his arrest in Pyongyang in April, according to forensic computer analysts.
He had inexplicably been living in South Korea since the start of 2013 prior to travelling to North Korea in April 2014, where he alternately claimed to be a journalist and a student.
In a handwritten “confession” papers released by North Korea in September, Miller purportedly wrote he was “seeking asylum to avoid imprisonment. My agenda is to remove the American military from South Korea. In this process I attempted to access files from the bases (of the) American military in South Korea. The American military is expanding its influence in Asia which I oppose.”
There is no evidence that the younger Miller possessed military secrets, but it is likely that North Korean intelligence interrogators were able to determine his relationship with his brother shortly after he was arrested in Pyongyang.
Major Robert Dean Miller is “currently assigned to the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., has spent 11 years in the Air Force and has flown more than 1,300 hours in the F-16, including 369 combat hours,” the Air Force said.
THE ARREST OF MILLER IN PYONGYANG
Mathew Todd Miller was arrested on April 10, 2014 when he entered North Korea on a tourist visa which he allegedly ripped up upon arrival at Pyongyang airport, telling North Korean officials he sought political asylum, according to Pyongyang. North Korea said that Miller claimed he possessed U.S. military secrets he obtained in South Korea. He was convicted of espionage and sentenced to six years at hard labour in prison in September.
There is no independent evidence that Mathew Miller possessed any classified secrets.
Photographs from Miller’s trial show what North Korea purported to be handwritten notes by Miller claiming to have obtained military secrets in South Korea and that he had worked with Wikileaks. North Korea said Miller offered to reveal U.S. military secrets “as if he were Edward Snowden.”
Miller “prepared a memo book in advance. It contained the following sentences: “I seek a political asylum. I am seeking refuge after failing in my attempt to collect information about the U.S. Government,” North Korea state media said.
North Korea is still technically at war with the United States.
“He believed that people in the DPRK have neither freedom nor human rights and if they disobey the government they would be subject to a miserable prison life. So, he had a foolish idea of spying on prison and human rights situation while experiencing “prison life’,” said KCNA. “It was his calculation that when he kicked up a fuss tearing off tourist visa while going through formalities for entry as a tourist he would be arrested by a relevant organ and taken to ‘prison’. So, he applied for tour through a travel agency in the U.S.”
Miller left South Korea in late February for Hong Kong, where he contacted the American travel agency, Uri Tours, which specializes in tourist travel to the isolated nation. Miller, in an unusual step, chose a more expensive “independent tour” where he was able to travel alone to Pyongyang. He picked up his ticket in Beijing from the private tour group, who accompanied him to the Beijing airport, having secured his visa to North Korea and ensured he boarded the flight to Pyongyang. He arrived in Pyongyang unaccompanied, but was met at the airport by a North Korean employee of Uri Tours.
It was while going though normal customs procedures that everything went apparently awry.
North Korea alleges Miller became combative, ripped up his tourist visa and requested political asylum.
There is no corroboration of these events and North Korea routinely makes false claims on state media regarding political acts of hostility.
Fifteen days after his arrest, North Korea made its first comment acknowledging the arrest of the American. It was the first time that anyone knew that an American was under detention in the country. “A relevant organ of the DPRK put in custody American Miller Matthew Todd, 24, on April 10 for his rash behavior in the course of going through formalities for entry into the DPRK to tour it, ” said KCNA. “He had a tourist visa for the DPRK, but tore it to pieces and shouted hoarse that “he would seek asylum” and “he came to the DPRK after choosing it as a shelter.” This was a gross violation of its legal order. The relevant organ put him in custody after taking a serious note of his behavior, and is now investigating the case.”
From April until now, neither Miler’s family nor the U.S. government has made any substantive comment on the detention, and virtually nothing of Miller’s biography or possible motivations to travel to North Korea has emerged.
MILLER IN SOUTH KOREA
Mathew Miller lived in South Korea from at least January 2013 until late February 2014, just prior to travelling to North Korea, according to friends who were in contact with him there.
While in South Korea, Miller used the alias’ “Preston Somerset” and “PS London” and claimed to some to be a British national. Some of Miller’s online profiles even had his alias of “Preston Somerset” translated into Korean script–프레스턴 서머셋.
“He had no real friends anywhere and I’m lead to believe I was the person he had a larger portion of contact with during his time in Seoul,” said Francis (Robbie) Cole, an American artist who had collaborated with Miller up until the time of his arrest in North Korea. The last Cole and Miller spoke was when Miller sent him a message on February 27, 2014 saying “Next month I am traveling and will not be in contact.”
Miller was arrested 5 weeks later in North Korea.
“Where his funding came from was never discussed, and we have to tread lightly on this one do to the legal strategy the family seems to be following, ” said his friend Cole in September. “You can guess who was giving him the money to stay in Korea based on that last statement.”
Cole, an artist active on internet forums focused on Japanese erotic art, lists his only formal employment on his Linked In profile as in 1999 “selling IT and telecommunications security through the AF (Air Force)and DoD (Department of Defense).”
“He was more of an art patron, while he would commission blocks of work it was very loose with the time limit and what needed to actually be done. His business plan was also very loose and did not leave much if any room for profit. With how much time he was spending working with artists as well as dealing with the logistics of renting display spaces, ordering materials, etc; it’s hard to understand how he’d have time for a normal job or do any of the things he’s being accused of,” said Cole from Virginia where he resides.
THE RELEASE OF MATTHEW MILLER
“We welcome the DPRK’s decision to release both Mr. Bae and Mr. Miller,” the highly unusual public statement by the United States Director of National Intelligence, the most senior intelligence official in the U.S. said on November 8. Washington is “facilitating their return to the United States”.
On September 20, North Korean state media detailed their allegations leading up to the imprisonment of Miller. “The results of the investigation made it clear that he did so not because of simple lack of understanding and psychopathology but deliberately perpetrated such criminal act for the purpose of directly going to prison after being intentionally reprimanded by a legal organ of the DPRK,” said the Korean Central News Agency. “Miller Matthew Todd (sic) left a university halfway and remained jobless in Yongdungpho District, Seoul City of south Korea. There he had inveterate hostility towards the DPRK while systematically listening broadcasting programs and reading publications of the U.S. and south Korea slandering the DPRK.”
North Korea alleged Miller possessed “papers containing invective’s against the north let loose by defectors from the north he obtained by visiting them” while in South Korea.