Lee seeks investigation to find BYU student missing in Asia over 12 years

ST. GEORGE — Over 12 1/2 years ago, Brigham Young University student David Louis Sneddon went missing in China under potentially suspicious circumstances. On Thursday, Sen. Mike Lee joined with Sen. Orrin Hatch and six other colleagues to reintroduce a resolution to reinvigorate the investigation of the incident under the new administration.

David Sneddon in China, ca. 2004 | Photo courtesy of Rep. Chris Stewart, St. George News

Sneddon went missing while hiking in the Yunnan Province of China in August of 2004. Since that time, his family and the Utah and Nebraska delegations in Congress have worked diligently with the State Department to uncover more information about his disappearance and possible whereabouts.

Although Chinese officials have said Sneddon most likely died while hiking, there is no evidence to support this, and no body has been recovered. Additionally, a September 2016 Washington Post report cites the president of the Abductee’s Family Union in Seoul as saying he is “50 to 70 percent” confident that Sneddon is alive in Pyongyang.

This indicates a possibility that the North Korean government – known for decades to operate in this region of China and to have kidnapped foreign nationals in Asia for their own intelligence and military purposes – could have been involved in Sneddon’s case and potential captivity.

Having lived in South Korea for two years while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sneddon is fluent in Korean, and it is suspected that the North Korean government may be using his language skills to train government officials and operatives.

Lee spoke on the Senate floor last year about this issue in more detail. He said:

As Americans, it can be easy for us to forget just how lucky we are to live in a free and open society.

Most of us – myself included – simply have no idea what it’s like to live under a totalitarian regime like the one that has kept the North Korean people in a state of impoverished servitude – cut off from the rest of the world – for generations.

But every so often, the mask slips, and there’s an event that gives the world a clue about what can happen when a nation-state operates – and thrives – behind a veil of mystery and secrecy.

For me and many of my fellow Utahns one of these clues came nearly 12 years ago when a young man from Utah suddenly went missing in southern China.

See the video of the full speech in media player top of this report.

The resolution calls upon the State Department to reinvigorate diplomatic efforts in Asia and work closely with U.S. intelligence agencies to continue the investigation into David’s disappearance. Lee hopes that President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson will prioritize this issue as they formulate administration policy for the Asia-Pacific region.

An identical resolution unanimously passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December, and a similar resolution introduced by Congressman Chris Stewart was adopted in the House of Representatives last year.

“There is more work to be done by the State Department and intelligence community,” Stewart said in September. “David’s family deserves answers, and until we find those answers we should continue to pursue all possible explanations for David’s disappearance.”

Cosponsors of the Senate resolution include Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Ben Sasse, R-Neb.; Chris Coons, D-Del.; Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; and Cory Gardner, R-Colo.

Email: pdail@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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