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N. Korea Won't Discuss Releasing US Citizens if Bae Continues Criticism

  • Wayne Lee

Family members watch as Kenneth Bae, right, freed during a top-secret mission, talks to reporters after he arrived at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Nov. 8, 2014.

Family members watch as Kenneth Bae, right, freed during a top-secret mission, talks to reporters after he arrived at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Nov. 8, 2014.

North Korea will not negotiate the release of two American citizens under arrest unless former detainee and American missionary Kenneth Bae stops using what Pyongyang considers to be slanderous language about the country.

"If Bae continues, U.S. criminals held in our country will be in the pitiful state of never being able to set foot in their homeland once again," North Korea's KCNA state media said Monday.

Bae was freed by North Korea in 2014 after two years of imprisonment. The U.S. missionary was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after being convicted of planning to overthrow the North Korean government.

Since Bae's release, he has written a book about his detention and has been promoting it with public speaking engagements. Bae says he became a "negotiating tool" for the North Koreans, some of whom he said had been "brainwashed."

US citizens sentenced

North Korea is holding two U.S. citizens, both sentenced to hard labor.

In March, University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier was given a 15 year sentence for trying to steal a propaganda banner.

FILE - U.S. student Otto Warmbier cries at court in an undisclosed location in North Korea, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on March 16, 2016.

FILE - U.S. student Otto Warmbier cries at court in an undisclosed location in North Korea, in this photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on March 16, 2016.

Korean-American missionary Kim Dong Chul was given a 10 year sentence in April after convictions of espionage and subversion.

North Korea has been known to be very sensitive about any criticism of its leadership and political system.

Formal diplomatic relations do not exist between North Korea and the United States because the two countries are still technically at war due to the fact the Korean War ended in 1953 with a ceasefire, not a peace treaty.

In May, the U.S. government strongly advised citizens not to travel to North Korea due to the risk of receiving "unduly harsh sentences."

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