Saturday, November 8, 2014
North Korea frees detained US men Miller and Bae
As I am sure every knows our citizens have been released. Here is my initial assessment.
Short answer is I wonder what agreements have been made behind the scenes - we should never forget that north Korea conducts blackmail diplomacy and every action (provocation or illegal detention of Americans) is designed to obtain political and economic concessions.
It is surprising the DNI was chosen for this but that was probably the compromise; e.g., someone of sufficient stature that allows the regime to say that the Americans came to Korea to kowtow for the release of its "criminals." It will be interesting to read the propaganda in KCNA over the next few days. But the DNI may only be the visible concession. The question is what is happening behind the scenes.
The alternative story could be along two lines. The Administration's policy of strategic patience has backed the north against the wall and they are forced to make some kind of concessions to try to restart dialogue, thus the reason of the release. Or the UN Commission of Inquiry's report on north Korean human rights atrocities (which is unprecedented) has forced them to do something to make them look better in the eyes of the international community (but which it has never cared about in the past and has never influenced its past decision making).
So there are basically three explanations. I do not think the regime has changed so therefore I am skeptical about the second and third explanations above and I think that the north may very well have received some kind of political and economic concessions in response to its continued blackmail diplomacy. I just do not think the DNI coming to get our Americans is enough. It was important to achieve the release but there is likely more behind the scenes.
8 November 2014 Last updated at 11:48 ET
Kenneth Bae (left) had been held for two years and Matthew Miller for seven monthsJeffrey Fowle, who reportedly left a Bible in a toilet, flew home in October
Two Americans who were being held in detention in North Korea, Matthew Todd Miller and Kenneth Bae, have been released and are on their way home.
US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper travelled to North Korea and is accompanying the men back, the US has confirmed.
A third US citizen, Jeffrey Fowle, was freed last month and no Americans are now being held in North Korea.
US President Barack Obama said he was "grateful" for their safe return.
He said it was "a wonderful day" for the men and their families.
The US had accused North Korea of using its citizens as pawns in a diplomatic game. Pyongyang denies the accusations.'Hostile acts'
Mr Clapper travelled to North Korea for direct talks with the authorities.
Mr Obama said: "I appreciate the director doing a great job on what was obviously a challenging mission."
The BBC's Charles Scanlon says that the contact will lead to hope of a breakthrough in the long diplomatic deadlock between the two sides.
The US department of state said in a statement that it "welcomes the release of US citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller from the DPRK [North Korea], where they have been held for two years and seven months, respectively".
It added: "The United States has long called on DPRK authorities to release these individuals on humanitarian grounds. We join their families and friends in welcoming them home."
The son of Kenneth Bae told Reuters: "It's awesome. Couldn't be happier."
One US official told Associated Press news agency that nothing was offered in return for the releases.
The official said that the releases had not changed the US view of North Korea's nuclear programme and that the North should show a serious commitment to denuclearisation and improved human rights.
The US thanked Sweden, which serves as the US protecting power in North Korea, for its efforts in the releases.
Mr Miller, 24, had been sentenced to six years' hard labour in September for what North Korean state media described as "hostile acts".
He had been in custody since 10 April when, according to North Korean sources, he destroyed his tourist visa and demanded asylum.
Mr Bae, 42, had been arrested in November 2012 as he entered the north-eastern port city of Rason, a special economic zone near North Korea's border with China.
He has been described as both a tour operator and Christian missionary. North Korea said he used his tourism business to form groups to overthrow the government.
He was sentenced to 15 years' hard labour in May 2013.
Jeffrey Fowle flew home to the US last month following negotiations.
Mr Fowle, 56, had entered North Korea in April and was detained in early June as he was leaving the country. He was charged with "anti-state" crimes.
He was reported to have left a Bible in the toilet of a restaurant in the northern port city of Chongjin.
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