Thursday, April 2, 2009
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'The detained U.S. reporters, Korean American Euna Lee, left, and Chinese American Laura Ling.'
Two U.S. journalists will face trial in N. Korea :Some experts say that North Korea may use the release as a bargaining chip after launching its satellite April 1, 2009
North Korea said yesterday that it is taking steps to indict two U.S. journalists, who are currently detained in the that country, raising concerns that their release could be especially delayed at this time as North Korea is poised to launch what it calls a “satellite.”
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that North Korea has obtained evidence on the journalists‘ illegal entry, and hostile activities and preparations are underway to indict the two reporters.
Observers say that the announcement of the interim investigation and comments regarding possible indictment by North Korea are intended to facilitate securing an upper hand for its future negotiations with the United States. Sadly, this is not good news for Washington, which seeks to have the U.S. citizens released as quickly as possible.
Experts say that it is unusual for North Korea to disclose the results of its interim investigation. They indicate this recent announcement, however, may be intended to draw attention from the U.S., which wants to resolve the matter quietly, opening the way for negotiations.
North Korea says it has confirmed evidence of illegal entry as well as involvement in hostile activities but did not elaborate on details clarifying whether the journalists engaged in espionage activities. Under North Korea’s criminal law, “hostile activities” are defined as cases where foreigners intend to do harm to its people and properties or instigate conflict among its citizens. Espionage activities, meanwhile, are defined as cases where non-North Korean people search, collect and provide information for the sake of spying. The level of punishment for the two charges is similar but espionage carries more diplomatic significance.
Against this backdrop, experts worry that North Korea might be attempting to buy as much time as possible until its launch, and may use the release issue as a bargaining chip in later negotiations with the U.S. A diplomatic source in Washington said, “The issue of their release could provide the reason for talks between high-ranking officials of the two countries after tensions subside to some extent following North Korea’s launch of a long-range missile.”
It is clear to some analysts that the release of the two journalists will not be immediate given North Korea‘s notice of intended legal proceedings. The North has allowed consular access to Swedish diplomats staying in Pyongyang who have formal diplomatic relations with the U.S., a humanitarian move apparently aimed at avoiding criticism that it is using their release merely for political benefit. The KCNA said that the two journalists are being treated in accordance with related international laws.
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