Matthew Miller, an American man who was arrested in North Korea for allegedly ripping up his visa and seeking asylum is scheduled to go before the North’s Supreme Court on Sunday. Although he and his family hope for a fair trial, more than likely the verdict of guilty will come quickly. Miller, along with two other Americans, was detained while in North Korea and hopes that somehow, a senior US Statesman will come to the aid of him and the other two men.
The second man detailed, Jeffrey Fowle, went to North Korea as a tourist but after leaving a Bible at a provincial club, was arrested this past May. The third man, Kenneth Bae, is a Korean-American missionary who is already serving a 15-year prison sentence for so-called “hostile acts”.
According to state media for North Korea, Miller who has been in custody since April will go on trial and if found guilty, will face punishment ranging from forgiveness and deportation back to the US to a long prison sentence involving hard labor.
Apparently, several offers have been made by the United States to send Robert King, an envoy for North Korean human rights issues, to seek freedom of all three detainees but without success.
Many high-profile officials have worked with North Korea in the past to free prisoners. In 2009, former President Bill Clinton tried to free imprisoned journalist, in 2010 Jimmy Carter worked to secure the release of Aijalon Gomes, and in 2011, the State Department’s envoy successfully intervened in the case of Eddie Yong Su Jun.
The biggest challenge is finding the right person for the job. Now with the Obama administration swallowed up by major global issues and working strategically to calm things down with North Korea, getting Miller and the other two Americans may be impossible.
According to Scott Snyder, director of the program on US-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations based in Washington DC, North Korea has a strategy that has worked before. However, the situation with the American hostages is occurring at a time when the United States is trying to avoid other crises with this country.
For example, if North Korea were willing to release the detainees in exchange for negotiations pertaining to the nuclear weapons program, Washington DC would have a difficult time accepting. Another problem involves the use of senior US Statesmen since it creates problems for administrations that do not want to risk of losing control.
Snyder adds that sending in a high-level official to free the Americans will probably not work because it would create excessive political risks. Therefore, he feels the best person to try to get the men released would be an official close to the Obama administration but not a former president.
Apparently, 24-year-old Miller wrote a letter to Obama more than 30 days ago but at this time has received no reply. He shares that he does not want to go to prison but until he knows the charges in Sunday’s trial, he has no idea what the future holds.