North Korea rules out release of US detainees
North Korea says it will not consider releasing two jailed Americans unless former detainee Kenneth Bae stops “jabbering” against the government in Pyongyang.
Bae, a US missionary, was arrested in November 2012 and sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor on charge of seeking to topple the North Korean government before being released in 2014.
Since his release, the 47-year-old man has been campaigning against Pyongyang and considering setting up a foundation to support North Korean defectors.
Two US citizens are currently serving prison time in North Korea, with the state-run KCNA news agency saying Monday that “as long as Kenneth Bae continues jabbering, there will be no negotiations on American criminals.”
Otto Warmbier, who the US describes as a 21-year-old college student, was arrested in Pyongyang in January and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda banner from a tourist hotel.
Kim Dong-Chul, a 62-year-old Korean American, was also arrested in January and sentenced to 10 years of hard labor on charges of espionage.
Several Americans have been held in North Korea in recent years. Pyongyang accuses the US of plotting with its regional allies to topple the North Korean government.
The US State Department “strongly recommends against all travel” to North Korea and specifically warns of the risk of arrest.
The United States has no diplomatic or consular relations with the North and the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang provides consular services to US citizens detained there.