PYONGYANG, North Korea (CNN) — North Korea says it will soon begin the trial of a U.S. citizen held in the country since late last year on charges he was plotting to overthrow the communist regime.
Kenneth Bae faces the death penalty for allegedly trying to overthrow the regime of Kim Jong Un.
But analysts warn Pyongyang may try to use the Korean-America plotting to overthrow the communist regime as a bargaining chip to gain high-level talks with Washington.
“But utilizing the arrest of a U.S.. Citizen of korean descent is a tactic which pyongyang has used time and time again, and it’s managed to bring into the country very high level Americans, such as Bill Clinton and Bill Richardson.”
The strategy worked in 2009 when former President Clinton engaged with Kim Jong Il over two American journalists sentenced to 8 years in prison. As a result, Euna Lee and Laura Ling were freed after six months in jail.
Kenneth Bae faces far more serious charges after he was arrested last November in the Rasun Free Trade Zone, along North Korea’s border with Russia after leading a tour group into the country.
North Korea’s official news agency says he has confessed to his crimes and they have hard evidence.
That evidence may be nothing more than photographs taken of North Korean orphans.
Bae, also known by his Korean name Pay Joon Hoe, was a Christian activist.
Friends say he published some of the photographs and, when viewed by the outside world, give a less-than-glowing assessment of life under Kim Jong Un’s regime.
Analysts say we shouldn’t be surprised.
“I think the bottom line is that, in some ways, what we’re seeing out of Pyongyang is not new. They’ve used all these tactics in the past,” said Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrand, an analyst with International Crisis Group. “What has changed though, is they have in many respects become a de-facto nuclear power. One, which the International community can’t recognize as such. And the question is: If they are capable, in the short term, of miniaturizing a nuclear device and putting on a missile that can hit a target in the Asia Pacific,what is the region and what is the United States willing to do to counteract that, to try and come up with a strategy to see if they can change North Korea’s calculation?”