Tuesday, March 31, 2009

UPDATED:

SEOUL — Two American journalists detained at North Korea’s border with China two weeks ago will be indicted and tried, with “their suspected hostile acts” already confirmed, Pyongyang’s state-run news agency said Tuesday.

The Korean Central News Agency report did not say when a trial would take place but that preparations to indict the Americans were under way as the investigation continues.

“The illegal entry of U.S. reporters into [North Korea] and their suspected hostile acts have been confirmed by evidence and their statements,” the report said.

The report did not elaborate on what “hostile acts” the journalists are accused of committing.



Euna Lee and Laura Ling, reporters for former Vice President Al Gore’s San Francisco-based Current TV media venture, were detained by North Korean border guards March 17.

A report in South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper March 22 said the two were undergoing “intense interrogation” at a military guesthouse in Pyongyang’s outskirts for suspected acts of illegal entry and espionage.

Conviction on charges of spying and illegally crossing the border could draw more than 20 years in prison for each count under North Korea’s criminal code.

A Swedish diplomat met with the journalists individually over the weekend, State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said in Washington.

The detentions come at a time of mounting tensions in the region as North Korea prepares to launch a rocket over the objections of its neighbors.

Japanese, South Korean and U.S. missile-destroying ships set sail to monitor North Korea’s announced rocket launch, as Pyongyang stoked tensions Monday by detaining a South Korean worker on suspicion of denouncing the North’s political system.

The man is accused of breaking North Korean law by denouncing Pyongyang’s political system and inciting North Korean workers to flee the communist country, ministry spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said.

Pyongyang has declared it will send a satellite into space between April 4 and 8, but the U.S. and other nations suspect the launch will be a test of the country’s long-range missile technology.

The U.S., South Korea and Japan have warned Pyongyang it risks sanctions by carrying out a launch prohibited under a U.N. Security Council resolution that bans the North from ballistic activity.

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