The U.S. Department of State welcomes the release of two U.S. citizens from North Korea, also known as the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, or D.P.R.K. The two men, Kenneth Bae and Matthew Miller, were held for two years and seven months, respectively. The State Department had long called on North Korean authorities to release these individuals on humanitarian grounds.
Bae and Miller were released and returned to the United States on November 8 after Director of National Intelligence James Clapper flew to North Korea as an envoy of President Barack Obama. A third detained citizen, Jeffrey Fowle, was released from North Korea last month.
At a press briefing, President Obama said he “couldn’t be happier for the families as we enter into the holidays to know that their loved ones are back. It’s a good news story.”
President Obama stressed, however, that the trip to North Korea by Mr. Clapper did not involve “some of the broader issues that have been the source of primary concern when it comes to North Korea – in particular, its development of nuclear capacity.”
President Obama said that resolving the “broader fundamental conflict with the North Koreans” needs more than “small gestures” like the release of the detained individuals. It’s going to take, he said, “a broader understanding on the part of the North Koreans that all the countries in the region, including China, including the Republic of Korea, including Japan, consider this to be their number one security priority -– making sure that we do not have a nuclearized Korean Peninsula.”
State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said in an interview that the United States will continue to press the North Koreans about concerns over their nuclear program, as well as over their abysmal human rights record, one of the worst in the world. “Nothing has changed,” she said, “regardless of the fact that we now have our three U.S. citizens back.”