Sun, Apr 26, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Alleged insensitivity of US envoy sparks fury in Seoul

By William Lowther  /  STAFF REPORTER IN WASHINGTON

There is evidence that the North Korean guards crossed the river and grabbed the women on the Chinese side, forcing them into North Korea at gunpoint.

In a statement this week, North Korea said the women would be charged with “hostile acts” and would go on trial at some unspecified time in the future.

This comes amid mounting diplomatic tensions between Pyongyang and the international community, including the US, over its rogue nuclear program.

Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul, said in an interview, that the Americans had become another “negotiating chip” for Pyongyang as it embarks on negotiations with Washington and its allies over the nuclear impasse.

There is fear that North Korea might stage a show trial and sentence the two women to as much as ten years in a hard labor prison.

The Ling family emigrated from Taiwan to the US several years ago and now lives in Los Angeles.

Laura Ling's older sister, Lisa Ling, a former co-host of the US TV talk show The View and now a correspondent for National Geographic Channel's Explorer, has refused to comment.

It is understood that the families of both women have been advised by the State Department to keep low profiles and not to talk about the case.

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