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North Korea: Will Not Use American Prisoner as 'Bargaining Chip'

North Korea says it will not invite any prominent U.S. figure to seek the release of an imprisoned American, and will not use him as a bargaining chip in any political negotiations.

Korean-American tour operator Kenneth Bae was arrested in the North Korean city of Rason in November and charged with plotting to overthrow the state. He was sentenced late last month to 15 years of hard labor.

A spokesman for the North Korean foreign ministry told the state-run Korean Central News Agency Sunday that American media had been speculating that Pyongyang would use the prisoner for political gain. However, he said that although Pyongyang had released prisoners for humanitarian reasons in the past, the latest case proved that such generosity will be of no use.

Several Americans have been held in the North in recent years and then freed after visits by high-profile Americans such as former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.



In 2009, two television journalists were detained and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor after crossing into the North from China. Former U.S. president Clinton later traveled to North Korea to win their release.

In 2010, former U.S. president Carter negotiated the release of U.S. national Aijalon Mahli Gomes, who was sentenced to eight years of hard labor.

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