US: North Korea using detainees as political pawns

Jeffrey Fowle interviewed in North Korea. (Photo/NBC News)
Jeffrey Fowle interviewed in North Korea. (Photo/NBC News)

WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S. says North Korea is using detained American citizens as political pawns, after a 24-year-old Californian man was sentenced to six years of hard labor there.

Matthew Miller, of Bakersfield, was convicted Sunday of entering the country illegally to commit espionage. The court said he tore up his visa on arriving in Pyongyang April 10 and had wanted to experience prison life so that he could secretly investigate North Korea’s human rights situation.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Monday that the U.S. disagreed with the sentencing. She said Miller and two other Americans, including Jeffrey Fowle, of Miamisburg, should be released and returned home.

Harf said that despite North Korea’s official claims to the contrary, it’s increasingly clear that nation “seeks to use these U.S. citizens as pawns to pursue its own political agenda.”

Fowle was arrested after leaving a Bible behind. He entered the Communist country as a tourist.

His trial is expected to begin soon. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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