By Justin Sink
“There is no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad, and we urge the [North Korean] authorities to grant Mr. Bae amnesty and immediate release,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Thursday. “We've had deep concerns about the transparency and due process across the breadth of the North Korean legal system.”
Bae has been detained for more than six months, and high-profile Americans — including former U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson and Google chairman Eric Schmidt — have asked Pyongyang to release the tour operator. But some foreign policy experts have suggested his sentencing is a ploy to get the United States back to the negotiating table, in hopes of removing sanctions put in place following a nuclear test earlier this year.
The White House last week refused to speculate on whether that could be motivating the North Korean regime.
"We have made clear that there is a path open to the North Koreans that would allow for negotiations, but it is dependent upon the North Koreans demonstrating a willingness to live up to their international obligations," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. "But thus far, as you know, they have flouted their obligations, engaged in provocative actions and rhetoric that brings them no closer to a situation where they can improve the lot of the North Korean people or reenter the community of nations."
Rodman traveled to North Korea earlier this year with the Harlem Globetrotters as part of an HBO documentary series. He met leader Kim Jong Un at a basketball game and attended a party at the dictator's palace.
Last month, he said he plans to return to the country and "have some fun." He also defended the North Korean leader, despite a series of provocative actions from Pyongyang — including threatening South Korea and the United States with nuclear attack.
“He just wants to be loved. He just wants to sit down and talk. That’s all," Rodman told GossipExtra.com.
On Tuesday, President Obama hosted South Korean president Park Geun-hye at the White House. In a joint press conference, Obama pledged the two nations “will not reward provocative actions.”
“The days when North Korea could create a crisis and elicit concessions, those days are over,” Obama said.