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N. Korea Sentences U.S. Reporters to 12 Years Labor

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Associated Press: North Korea convicted two American journalists and sentenced them Monday to 12 years of hard labor for crossing into its territory, intensifying the reclusive nation's confrontation with the United States.

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The Obama administration said it would pursue "all possible channels" to win the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters for former Vice President Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV media venture.

There are fears Pyongyang is using the women as bargaining chips as the U.N. debates a new resolution to punish the country for its defiant May 25 atomic test and as North Korea seeks to draw Washington into direct negotiations.

Washington's former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson called the sentencing part of "a high-stakes poker game" being played by North Korea. He said on NBC's Today show that he thinks negotiations for their "humanitarian release" can begin now that the legal process has been completed. Other South Korean analysts also said they expect the two to be freed following negotiations.

The journalists were found guilty of committing a "grave crime" against North Korea and of illegally entering the country, North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

North Korean guards arrested Ling and Lee near the China-North Korean border on March 17. The two were reporting about the trafficking of North Korean women at the time of their arrest, and it's unclear if they strayed into the North or were grabbed by aggressive border guards who crossed into China. A cameraman and their local guide escaped.

The Central Court in Pyongyang sentenced each to 12 years of "reform through labor" in a North Korean prison after a five-day trial, KCNA said in a terse, two-line report that provided no further details. A Korean-language version said they were convicted of "hostility toward the Korean people."

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4 comments so far | Post a comment now
ron June 9, 2009, 3:06 AM

these 2 girls crossed into n. korea without passports so y should we feel sorry 4 them they broken international laws now they go to jail like anyother regular persons, in world these 2 girls should not b freed if they broke a law in other country an lucky they not accused of spying on korea so they very lucky girls, so let them lern lesson by staying in jail or work off the punisment they so rightly deserve i bet no one will try this stupid stunt in any part of the world again heck u bleeding heart liberals why dont u help the innocent project an help releese some real innocent peoploe out of our u.s. prisons here, huh bet gore wont do that , y because no money in it for that sorry liberal thats why, so be for payin millions for 2 guilty girls why not statrt payment on real innocent peoploe out our prison system, huh, tell gore to do this,

david June 9, 2009, 3:23 AM

like the report says, it is unclear if they strayed into NK or if aggressive border guards crossed into china. i have been there and i believe the latter. those border guards will stop at nothing short of that to get what they want. they actually try to start something with china or south korea at any chance they get.

cyndi in pa June 9, 2009, 9:35 AM

While my heart goes out to these girls families, I can’t help wondering what in the world they were doing there in the first place? Especially the one that has a 4 year old. They had no business being there, and now we have an international incident on our hands. I tend to agree with ron—they got themselves in this mess, why is it now our responibility to get them out of the mess they created?

Fzdgmvvu June 24, 2009, 6:32 AM

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