North Korea deports detained Australian missionary

Australian missionary John Short, left, walks out from the airport terminal as he arrives at Beijing International Airport in Beijing, China, Monday, 3 March 2014 John Short, left, said he was "very tired" after he arrived in Beijing from Pyongyang

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North Korea has deported Australian missionary John Short, who was detained last month after it was reported that he distributed religious material.

Mr Short, 75, who has arrived in Beijing from Pyongyang, was detained after apparently leaving Christian pamphlets at a tourist site.

The North's state-run KCNA news agency said he had admitted breaking North Korean law and apologised.

It said he was being released partly in consideration of his age.

Religious activity is severely restricted in the North and missionaries have been arrested on many previous occasions.

"I'm really, really tired," Mr Short told reporters in China's capital, Beijing, after arriving on a commercial flight.

He was immediately escorted to a vehicle from the Australian embassy, reports say.

Earlier, KCNA reported: "Short acknowledged that his actions were... unforgivable crimes in violation of our laws, offered an apology and begged for forgiveness."

It also said that Mr Short had distributed religious material on a busy underground train in Pyongyang during a previous tour in August 2012.

Karen Short, wife of Australian missionary John Short, poses with a photo of her husband inside the Christian Book Room in Hong Kong 20 February 2014 Mr Short's wife, Karen, said she is thankful that he has been released

Meanwhile, Mr Short's wife, Karen, said: "Ten thousand times thankful is how I feel. And I don't think words can fit big enough."

Mr Short, who is based in Hong Kong, was arrested at his hotel in Pyongyang last month.

'Welcome news'

Australia does not have a diplomatic mission in Pyongyang and is represented there by the Swedish embassy.

In a statement on Monday, the Australian government said Mr Short's release was "welcome news".

"Australian consular officials stand ready to provide assistance to Mr Short to ensure he can return to his home in Hong Kong as soon as possible," it said.

"We take this opportunity to thank the Swedish government for their tireless efforts on this difficult consular case in recent weeks."

Last week, detained South Korean missionary Kim Jong-uk appeared before media in North Korea to read from a statement publicly apologising for "anti-state crimes".

Mr Kim, 50, who is a Baptist, said he was arrested after entering North Korea from China in October with religious material.

He said he was unsure of his punishment and asked to be released.

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