Did detained American's Christianity scare North Korean regime?
North Korea's sentencing of a detained American to 15 years hard labor could be an attention-getting ploy. But Kenneth Bae is a devout Christian, and 'the regime is scared to death of Christianity.'
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Bae’s sentencing prompted speculation that Mr. Kim, the North’s young new ruler, could be angling for a news-grabbing visit from an American dignitary to try to win clemency. Bae is at least the sixth American to be found guilty of some unspecified crime against the North Korean state. Earlier cases have led to visits from two former presidents – Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton – and from Bill Richardson, the former US ambassador to the UN.Skip to next paragraph
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President Clinton won the release of two American women journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, in 2009 while his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, was secretary of state. President Carter undertook a similarly successful mission in 2010 on behalf of Aijalon Mahli Gomes, an American who, like Bae, was said to be a devout Christian.
After a flurry or reports out of South Korea that Carter was about to undertake a trip to Pyongyang on Bae’s behalf, the former president’s press secretary told Reuters that Carter “has not had an invitation to visit North Korea and has no plans to visit.”
Earlier this week the State Department had issued a statement calling on North Korea to release Bae “on humanitarian grounds.”
Already-tense US-North Korea relations have deteriorated further in recent months after Pyongyang conducted a third nuclear test in February and the US carried out annual joint exercises with the South Korean military. Kim managed to place himself on US and international front pages by threatening to “incinerate” US cities.
The heated rhetoric has cooled, although tensions could flare anew if the North conducts a ballistic missile test soon, as some experts anticipate.
But Bae’s sentencing may represent a renewed effort to put the North and Kim in the international spotlight at what for Kim maybe a critical moment, some regional experts say.
Their reasoning? South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-hye, will visit the US next week on a multicity tour that will feature a White House dinner and a speech to a joint session of Congress. President Park will be dominating headlines that Kim may feel should be his.