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article imageOp-Ed: James Clapper helps release 2 Americans from North Korea

By Ken Hanly     Nov 9, 2014 in Politics
Pyongyang - Terri Chung, the sister of Kenneth Bae, one of two Americans released by North Korea, said she would be thrilled to hug her brother soon adding that the family had been "waiting for and praying for this day for two years"
Bae, a Christian missionary and a Korean-American was accused in 2012 of trying to overthrow the North Korean government. He was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in April of 2013. Bae along with the other freed American Matthew Todd Miller were flown back to the US on Saturday as described in this Digital Journal article.
Chung thanked US officials, the Swedish embassy, and North Korean officials for aiding in the release of her brother to the US:“Words cannot adequately express our relief and gratitude that Kenneth is finally coming home!This ordeal has been excruciating for the family, but we are filled with joy right now..Our Thanksgiving celebration this year will be one we will never forget,”
Bae was said to have been using the Christian evangelical group, Youth with a Mission, as a forum to preach against the government and was accused of plotting a "religious coup d'etat". His sentence was to hard labor on a farm. Many were concerned that the sentence might harm his already fragile health.
The North Korean regime appears to crave attention from the US. James Clapper, US National Intelligence Director, went to North Korea and had prolonged discussions with North Korean officials before he managed to obtain the release of the two. The meeting was historic in that this is the highest level meeting between US and North Korean official since George Bush tagged North Korea as part of the Axis of Evil.
President Barack Obama also had words of praise for Clapper, who at other times has been the subject of criticism for false testimony before the US Congress."I think it's a wonderful day for them and their families. Obviously, we are very grateful for their safe return, and I appreciate Director Clapper doing a great job on what was obviously a challenging mission.” Another American Jeffrey Fowler was released last month. There are no more US detainees known to be left in North Korea.
Released along with Bae was Matthew Miller who had been serving a six year prison term after reportedly tearing up his visa at the airport in Pyonyang in April and asking for asylum. North Korean officials claim that Miller wanted to get arrested so he could do research on the human rights situation in the North while in prison. Since 2009 North Korea has arrested and held at least nine Americans.
The successful negotiations for the releases indicate that Kim Jong-un may be trying to improve relations with the US. Kim himself appears to be suffering poor health and some analysts wonder if he is in control at present. The US administration was almost as secretive about Clapper's mission as North Korea. His visit was on short notice as last week he was scheduled to give a speech at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York. He canceled his speech at the very last moment and shortly after left for North Korea.
Travel by important US figures to North Korea to obtain the release of Americans is virtually an American tradition. As recently as Obama's first term former President Clinton went to North Korea to obtain the release of two US journalists seized near the Chinese border. Obama has so far not reached out to North Korea as he has done with Iran. With more hawks in the new Congress he is not likely to do so. US policy seems to involve an attempt to isolate the North from the global economy and hope it will implode. There is little sign that is happening or even will happen.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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