Three Americans have been detained in North Korea and now seek U.S. assistance in returning home. On Monday they urged the United States government to aid them in their safe return home during interviews that were set up by the North Korean government. Some believe that this act of kindness on North Korea’s part may signal Pyongyan’s attempt at reopening dialogues with the US.
Two of the three detained men are awaiting trial while the third has already been sentenced to 15-years in prison, according to CNN and the Associated Press.
One of the men explained during the rare interview that his situation was “urgent”, while another stated that his health was failing.
The three men asked the United States government to consider a more thorough involvement in their case and that, in spite of the humane treatment they had been receiving in North Korea, their cases should be more actively looked into.
Jen Psaki, State Department spokeswoman said in a statement that the United States would be thankful for the safe return of the men. She said: “Out of humanitarian concern for Jeffrey Fowle, Matthew Miller, and their families, we request the DPRK release them so they may return home”.
Spokeswoman Psaki went on to ask the North Korean government for the pardon of the third man that is currently in their power: “We also request the DPRK pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care”.
Bae is a Christian missionary who has been captured 18 months ago and is now sentenced to hard labor. According to his statements for CNN, he has been constantly commuting between the labor camp and the hospital because of his worsening physical condition.
The White House declared that it was currently doing all it could to ensure that the three American citizens be returned safely home.
The interview in which the three men could contact US authorities seemed staged and suggested that the North Korean government might be trying to reopen dialogue routes with Washington.
In the past, Pyonyang has used prisoners as bargaining chips in attempts of talking to Washington so president Obama will surely be weary and carefully assess the situation.
The White House has asked the North Korean government to grant the three prisoners release without any conditions, insisting that other issues that have long been disputed with North Korea, such as the nuclear program, should remain separate.