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US Renews Call on Pyongyang to Release American Journalists

The United States has again called for the early release by North Korea of two American journalists held by the Pyongyang government since March 17. North Korea said Friday the two women will face trial on unspecified charges.

Obama administration officials have been saying for weeks they think the case of the two Americans will be best resolved by quiet diplomacy. And that approach was evident in the reaction here to an announcement from Pyongyang that the women, who had been accused of entering North Korea illegally and committing so-called hostile acts, will stand trial on what the country's official news agency said were confirmed crimes.

Acting State Department Spokesman Robert Wood did not address the allegations, saying only that the United States is continuing to work for their early release. "We've seen these reports and we continue to call on the North Koreans to release the two Americans so they can be returned to their families. We'll continue to work this issue through diplomatic channels. As I've said, we're trying to work this quietly, and we're going to continue to work it, but I don't have much to say beyond that right now," he said.

The two Americans, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, work for the California-based media outlet Current TV and were detained along the border between North Korea and China March 17. They had been doing a story on North Korean refugees to China.

Spokesman Wood said the United States was seeking official confirmation of reports they will face trial though the Swedish government, which represents U.S. interests in North Korea in the absence of diplomatic relations between Washington and Pyongyang.

Wood said a Swedish diplomat was allowed a brief visit with the two Americans on March 30th but that there had been no consular access since then, despite U.S. appeals.

A senior U.S. official who spoke to reporters noted that Pyongyang has committed to treating the two detainees properly, and said North Korean officials have allowed some personal items and medicine to be passed to them.