09/02/2014, 00.00
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Pyongyang puts three American prisoners on show to pressure US

The Kim regime allows CNN to interview and broadcast appeals from Kenneth Bae, Jeffrey Fowle and Matthew Miller: the first was sentenced to 15 years hard labor, the other two are awaiting trial. The North has always used foreign prisoners as a bargaining chip for material aid and cash.

Seoul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The release of the three Americans detained for several months in prison in North Korea is a "top priority" for the administration of the United States. The White House released this statement following appeals by US citizens broadcast by CNN. The government in Pyongyang allowed a CNN crew and an Associated Press reporter to meet with the prisoners at a hotel: they all admitted their guilt and asked for the regime's "forgiveness".

Kenneth Bae, 46, has been a prisoner in North Korea since 2012 and is currently confined in a labor camp on the outskirts of Pyongyang, sentenced to 15 years hard labor for "anti-state" activities; Jeffrey Fowle (56) and Matthew Miller (24) are accused of "violating national law" but are still awaiting trial. The first is a Christian missionary, the second have left a Bible in a nightclub while the third asked the regime for "asylum".

The government led by Kim Jong-un has a history of using detainees as bargaining chips for material benefits such as humanitarian aid or even cash from their governments. In some past cases, Pyongyang has demanded high ranking American administration figures personally go to the country to negotiate prisoners release, some of these even included former President Bill Clinton. Washington has proposed Robert King as a negotiator on several occasions.  King is the US special envoy to North Korea, but the offer has always been declined.

The three detainees spoke with reporters yesterday, in the presence of government officials. Each of them was interviewed for five minutes in a different room of a hotel located in the capital. All three asked their government to make a "direct appeal" for their release. Kenneth Bae stated clearly that he has suffered ill health and has been hospitalized on several occassions: "The only hope I have is that someone will come from the United States - he said - but so far, the latest I've heard is that there has been no response yet".


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