Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.), who has been involved in securing the release of U.S. citizens in North Korea in the 1990s, said Monday morning that there are some reasons to be hopeful for the release of two U.S. journalists convicted in North Korea on Monday.

The two journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, were arrested along the North Korea and China border in March. Early Monday, North Korea's highest court sentenced them to 12 years in prison.

Richardson said the sentence is "harsher than expected" on NBC's "Today Show." "The North Koreans are raising the stakes," he said. "This is a high stakes poker game."

However, Richardson was hopeful that the U.S. could secure their release for a couple reasons. First, since they were convicted in the highest court, the legal process is over, Richardson said. In previous instances, envoys have had to wait for the legal process to play out before starting diplomatic negotiations.

Second, the journalists were not charged with espionage, Richardson said, which is also good.

And third, Richardson said it appears that North Korea has seperated these charges from the larger political dispute the country is having with the U.S. over its nuclear program.

Richardson said an envoy would likely eventually seek "some (kind of) political pardon, some sort of respite from political proceedings."

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