May 2013 – American Kenneth Bae, detained for nearly six months in North Korea, has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for crimes against the North Korean state. This detention further complicates the ties between Pyongyang and Washington, which have been shaky ever since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un began nuclear tests in the beginning of 2013.
Kenneth Bae had been apprehended by North Korean officials for trying to overthrow the government, a crime which is usually punishable by death. But the fact that this American “only” got 15 years of labor may be proof North Korea is willing to restart negotiations with the United States. Yes, North Korean officials have indeed stated they have been mild in sentencing Bae and that this decision was taken following “a very democratic trail” in which Bae had “every opportunity to defend himself”.
Bae is already the sixth American since 2009 who’s been arrested and brought to trial in North Korea. These arrests were usually met by a quick response from the US, who sends diplomats and politicians to negotiate the terms of release. This time the American reactions seemed somewhat different.
US officials have announced to stand firm against negotiations and concessions towards North Korea, because they’re tired of playing this game. Over 60 years North Korea is trying to put leverage on the US by undemocratically sentencing American citizens to ridiculous punishments and now it’s time that the US stops nudging. It seems North Korea wants to arrest as many Americans as possible for diplomatic purposes only, because their nuclear strategy seems to fail at almost every point. With the appointment of new leader Kim Jong Un, hope arose that North Korea would finally open up to the West and that it would be willing to negotiate better terms of understanding. But nuclear tests in December 2012 and the beginning of 2013 have proven the opposite to be true. Although North Korea seems to enjoy threatening the West with their nuclear prowess, the sentencing of these Americans shows that even they realize that a nuclear war is a lose-it-all-situation for everyone involved, for Pyongyang perhaps even more so than for others. Exerting diplomatic pressure on the US using American citizens seems the only way they will ever be able to achieve their goals.
The US government insisted that they will do anything possible to save Bae, but so far no official measures have been taken. The government’s lack of crisis management has caused Dennis Keith Rodman, retired American basketball Hall of Famer, has taken matters in his own hands. The former NBA player turned professional eccentric, has met Kim Jong Un, who’s apparently a basketball enthusiast, while visiting North Korea in February. He will now travel back and try to negotiate the release of Bae. As it is still North Korea’s goal to attract diplomats and important political figures to their country negotiating Bae’s release and thus put diplomatic pressure on the US, the only question remains if it’s also their intention to lure other American idols into their humble abode.