N Korea threatens to indefinitely detain US prisoners

Seoul, June 21 (IANS) North Korea on Tuesday threatened to detain indefinitely two Americans if former detainee and Christian missionary Kenneth Bae kept publicly criticising the Kim Jong-un regime.

“Pyongyang will neither make any compromise nor conduct negotiations with the US over the issue of American criminals nor take any humanitarian measures as long as Bae Jun Ho (Kenneth Bae’s Korean name) keeps spouting invectives against North Korea,” Efe news on Tuesday cited a statement as saying.

American nationals now in custody in North Korea will never be able to go back to the US, the statement said.

North Korea insisted that this was just a warning and accused the US of being responsible for a false propaganda campaign led by Kenneth Bae since his release two years ago.

Bae, freed in November 2014 after serving two years of a 15-year prison sentence for alleged attempts to spread Christianity in North Korea, has published a book on his experiences as a prisoner in the Communist country and has criticised the regime’s human rights abuses on various occasions.

Pyongyang said it provided everything to Bae during his prison life from a humanitarian point of view and called the missionary ungrateful and a “Judas”.

Meanwhile, the US government responded to North Korea’s new ultimatum with a statement defending Kenneth Bae’s “freedom of speech” to criticise the regime.

In addition, Washington urged Pyongyang to “grant special amnesty and immediately release on humanitarian grounds” to the two Americans detained in North Korea.

One of the Americans detained is a University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier, 21, who was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour on the charge of attempting to steal a propaganda banner from a hotel in Pyongyang.

The other is 62-year-old Kim Dong-chul, a US citizen of Korean origin who received 10 years’ hard labour on charges of espionage and subversion to “overthrow the social system” of North Korea.

–IANS

py/mr

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