North Korea won't use U.S. prisoner as bargaining chip

May 5, 2013 at 10:43 AM

PYONGYANG, North Korea, May 5 (UPI) -- North Korean officials said they would not use U.S. national Kenneth Bae -- recently sentenced to 15 years of hard labor -- in political negotiations.

Bae, a tour operator arrested after crossing the border into North Korea as a tourist, was sentenced to 15 years hard labor for "committing hostile acts," the country's Supreme Court ruled.

The Korean Central News Agency said Bae was arrested last November while "committing hostile acts against the DPRK" after entering Rason City as a tourist, and that Bae, during a preliminary hearing, had "admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK with hostility toward it."

But the KCNA report gave no details about Bae's crimes.

A spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry said that although Pyongyang had used prisoners for political gain in the past, Bae would not be, Voice of America reported Sunday.

In 2009, former U.S. President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea to negotiate the release of two journalists sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter later negotiated the release of another U.S. national, Aijalon Mahli.

North Korean officials said they would not invite anyone from the United States in order to negotiate for Bae's release, Arirang News reported.

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