North Korea will put a detained US citizen on trial on Sunday, state media said yesterday, less than a week after Matthew Miller made a highly unusual televised plea for help from Washington.
Miller, one of three Americans being held in North Korea, was arrested in April after Pyongyang said he ripped up his visa at immigration and demanded asylum.
“The Supreme Court of the Democratic People’s Republic of [North] Korea decided to hold on September 14 a court trial on American Matthew Todd Miller, now in custody according to the indictment of a relevant institution,” the Korean Central News Agency said.
The statement offered no further details.
North Korea said in June it would put Miller and another detained US citizen, Jeffrey Fowle, on trial on unspecified charges related to “perpetrating hostile acts.”
On Monday last week, Miller — along with Fowle and the third US citizen being held, Kenneth Bae — pleaded for their freedom as Pyongyang minders looked on in an interview with CNN.
They urged Washington to send an envoy to negotiate their release.
“My situation is very urgent,” Miller said during the interview.
“I think this interview is my final chance to push the American government into helping me,” he added, wearing a dark turtleneck and often looking away from the interviewer.
US officials vowed after the interviews were aired that they would “leave no stone unturned” in their efforts to free the three men.
US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused to outline US efforts publicly, saying Washington did not want to jeopardize any diplomacy. She would not discuss whether Washington was prepared to send a high-level envoy to Pyongyang as it has in past cases, when former US president Bill Clinton and former New Mexico governor Bill Richardson won the release of detained Americans.
“We continue to work actively to secure these three US citizens’ release,” Psaki said.
The department said there was no update to Psaki’s earlier remarks after the North’s announcement.
Fowle entered North Korea on April 29 and was detained after reportedly leaving a Bible at a hotel. Bae was arrested in November 2012 and later sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges of seeking to topple the North Korean government.
Washington has no diplomatic ties with North Korea, and the Swedish embassy acts as a go-between in such consular cases. Swedish officials last visited Bae on Aug. 11, and saw Fowle and Miller in late June.
The trial date for Miller has been set as the North launches a diplomatic offensive by sending senior diplomats on rare trips to Europe — and, possibly, to the US.
Kang Sok-ju, secretary of the North Korean Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, arrived on Saturday for a European tour, including Germany and Italy. North Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri Su-yong reportedly plans to visit New York to attend the UN General Assembly later this month, in the first visit to the US by anyone in the role of North Korea’s top diplomat in 15 years.
As part of the renewed diplomatic campaign, Pyongyang will use the US detainees as a bargaining chip to force Washington to the negotiating table, said Kim Yong-hyun, professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University.
“The North is hoping that the US will send a senior-level envoy and hoping in this process to improve ties with Washington and make progress in nuclear negotiations,” Kim said.
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