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Released from years of 'hard labour': Two Americans imprisoned by North Korea are being allowed home

Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller have been held for for two years and seven months, respectively.

File pic: American missionary Kenneth Bae, right, leaves after speaking to reporters at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang (January).
File pic: American missionary Kenneth Bae, right, leaves after speaking to reporters at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang (January).
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE US STATE Department has announced the release of two Americans who had been held by the government of North Korea.

“The Department of State welcomes the release of US citizens Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller from the DPRK, where they have been held for two years and seven months, respectively,” it said in a statement.

The State Department said the two Americans were freed with the help of US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who traveled to North Korea and “engaged on behalf of the United States in discussions with DPRK authorities about the release of two citizens,” the statement said.

A senior State Department official added that there was “no quid pro quo” for North Korea freeing the two Americans.

Their release comes just two weeks after Pyongyang freed American Jeffrey Fowle, 56, who was imprisoned in April after apparently leaving a Bible in a nightclub bathroom.

Source: AP/Press Association Images - Mathew Miller, Jeffrey Fowle and Kenneth Bae

“The safety and welfare of US citizens abroad is the Department of State’s highest priority, and the United States has long called on DPRK authorities to release these individuals on humanitarian grounds. We join their families and friends in welcoming them home.”

Bae, a Korean-American missionary, earlier this week marked the two-year anniversary of his detention by the reclusive state.

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The sickly 42-year-old was arrested in November 2012 and later sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour.

Miller, 24, had been sentenced to six years’ hard labour by the North Korean Supreme Court following his arrest in April, after he allegedly ripped up his visa at immigration and demanded asylum.

Washington has condemned Pyongyang over the detentions, saying the Americans were held as political hostages to extract diplomatic concessions.

- © AFP 2014

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