May 3, 2013

U.S. demands release of American sentenced in North Korea

Analysts say Pyongyang could use Kenneth Bae, a devout Christian and a tour operator, as a bargaining chip as it seeks dialogue with Washington.

The Washington Post

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This 1988 file photo provided by Bobby Lee shows Kenneth Bae, right, and Lee together when they were freshmen students at the University of Oregon. Bae, detained for nearly six months in North Korea, has been sentenced to 15 years of "compulsory labor" for unspecified crimes against the state, Pyongyang announced Thursday.

AP / The Register-Guard, Bobby Lee

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Lee and Ling had initially been sentenced to 12 years in a prison camp, following a brief trial in an office building that had been converted temporarily into a courtroom. As Ling describes in her book, released in 2010 and co-written with her sister, she had little faith in the trial but hoped her repeated apologies would win leniency.

As the trial drew to a close, Ling wrote, the prosecutor linked her actions with those of the U.S. government, which was described as "constantly meddling in North Korean affairs."

When the judge handed down his sentence, he vowed there would be no forgiveness and no appeal.

"It wasn't the sentence's harshness that shocked me," Ling wrote. "I had predicted all along they might give me a long prison term to send a message to the outside world. It was the phrases 'no forgiveness' and 'no appeal' that tore into me."

Also Thursday, the Pentagon said in a report to Congress that North Korea appears to be on track to fulfil its stated goal of being able to strike the U.S. with a nuclear-armed missile.

The report said the North's efforts to that end had been greatly aided by its work on a space-launch vehicle, highlighted by the launch of a satellite into space in December. But it added that the North has yet to test a re-entry vehicle, needed for delivering a warhead to a target.

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