Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller: North Korea frees Americans.

North Korea Frees Two Detained Americans

North Korea Frees Two Detained Americans

The Slatest
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Nov. 8 2014 11:45 AM

North Korea Frees Two Detained Americans

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A conservative anti-North Korean activist holds a placard calling for the release of detained U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae in Seoul on Feb. 16.

Photo by Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

There are no more U.S. citizens detained in North Korea. Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller were released and “are on their way home,” the State Department announced on Saturday. Bae and Miller were both being accompanied home by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence who apparently played a key role in getting Pyongyang to agree to free the two U.S. citizens. Clapper traveled to Pyongyang to secure their release, although there was no “quid pro quo” for the release, a senior official assures CNN.

“We are grateful to Director of National Intelligence Clapper, who engaged on behalf of the United States in discussions with D.P.R.K. authorities about the release of two citizens,” the State Department said. “We also want to thank our international partners, especially our Protecting Power, the Government of Sweden, for their tireless efforts to help secure the freedom of Mr. Bae and Mr. Miller.” Sweden acts as intermediary between Washington and Pyongyang, since the United States does not have diplomatic ties with the authoritarian state.

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The release comes only weeks after North Korea released Jeffrey Fowle, who was detained after he left a bible in a sailor’s club. Bae, a 46-year-old Korean-American missionary, was arrested two years ago whle leading a tour group and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor on charges of crimes against the state. Bae was moved to a hospital recently due to his poor health, and the United States often called for his release on humanitarian grounds.

The 25-year-old Miller had been held for a much shorter seven months and had been sentenced to six years of hard labor on espionage charges. Miller apparently tore up his tourist visa on arrival in Pyongyang, allegedly demanding asylum. He apparently claimed to have U.S. military secrets but North Korea’s supreme court said he actually wanted to get an inside look into the country’s prisons to report on the human rights situation.

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Matthew Todd Miller sits in a witness box during his trial at the North Korean Supreme Court in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang.

Reuters/KCNA

Tourism to North Korea has been increasing but the State Department advises against it, saying today that it “reiterates our strong recommendation against all travel by U.S. citizens to the D.P.R.K.”

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.