WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US State Department said Tuesday that an American is being held in North Korea and called for the person's release on humanitarian grounds.

Swedish officials, who represent the United States in the absence of diplomatic ties between Pyongyang and Washington, "have been able to visit" the detained individual, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

He declined to identify the detainee on the grounds that the US government has not obtained a waiver of privacy from either the detainee or the person's family.

"I don't have any details on what this individual was doing in North Korea, but we would call on the government of North Korea to release this citizen on humanitarian grounds," Toner said.

"And we would ask that they respect and treat this citizen in a manner consistent with international human rights law," he added.

A State Department official told reporters on the condition of anonymity that the individual had "crossed a border" but did not elaborate. Officials did not say when the American was detained.