North Korea to put American tour operator Kenneth Bae on trial for 'trying to overthrow the government'

Analysts say North Korea will probably hand Bae a harsh punishment to use him as a bargaining chip in possible negotiations with the US
  • @James_Legge

North Korea will try an American with attempting to overthrow the government - a crime which carries the death penalty.

Kenneth Bae, a tour operator of Korean descent, was arrested after arriving in the Democratic People's Republic in November. He was in Rason, a special economic zone bordering China and Russia.

The exact nature of his alleged crimes isn't known, but North Korea accuses Bae, referred to in state media by his Korean name, Pae Jun Ho, of seeking to topple the country's leadership.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said: "In the process of investigation (Bae) admitted that he committed crimes aimed to topple the DPRK (North Korea) with hostility toward it. His crimes were proved by evidence.

"He will soon be taken to the supreme court of the DPRK to face judgment."

KCNA did not say when Bae's trial will take place.

Bae is the sixth American detained in North Korea since 2009. The other Americans were eventually deported or released after high-profile diplomatic interventions, some involving former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Under North Korea's criminal code, terrorist acts include murdering, kidnapping and injuring the country's citizens can lead to a death sentence or life in jail.

North Korea's state media and the US government have released little information on Bae, but his friends, colleagues and South Korean activists specialising in North Korean affairs said he is a Christian missionary based in a Chinese border town who frequently made trips to North Korea to feed orphans there.

Defectors from the reclusive state have said distribution of Bibles and secret prayer services can mean banishment to a labour camp or execution.

The indictment comes in the middle of something of a lull after weeks of threats by North Korea against the US and South Korea.

Last month the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned an "all out war, a nuclear war" could be imminent.

This followed United Nations sanctions imposed after his country's February nuclear test and a series of joint US and South Korean military drills that have included a rare US show of aerial power.

Analysts say Pyongyang's apparent rage is an attempt to get its Korean War enemies to negotiate on its own terms.

Analysts say the North will probably hand Bae a harsh punishment to use him as a bargaining chip in possible negotiations with the US.