Summit raises hope North Korea will release 3 US detainees

People watch a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump, left, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 9, 2018. After months of trading insults and threats of nuclear annihilation, Trump agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un by the end of May to negotiate an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, South Korean and US officials said Thursday. (AP/Ahn Young-joon)
Updated 13 March 2018

Summit raises hope North Korea will release 3 US detainees

TOKYO: Hopes for the release of three American citizens imprisoned in North Korea got a big boost by the news of a possible summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Freeing the prisoners would be relatively low-hanging fruit and a sign of goodwill by Kim. It would also mark something of a personal success for Trump, who has highlighted the issue since last June, when University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier died days after North Korea turned him over to American authorities.
Trump banned Americans from traveling to the North in response and featured Warmbier’s father prominently in his State of the Union speech in January.
A look at who the current American prisoners are and what a prison sentence in North Korea can entail:

The prisoners
All three Americans now doing time in the North are men, and all three are ethnic Koreans.
Two of them — Tony Kim and Kim Hak Song — were instructors at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology prior to their arrest and conviction. They are accused of anti-state activities and trying to overthrow the government. The university, which has not been linked to their arrests, is the only privately funded college in the North, founded in 2010 on donations from Christian groups.
Tony Kim, who taught accounting, has been in custody since April last year and is serving a 15-year sentence. Kim Hak Song, an agriculture specialist and evangelical minister who resided with his wife in China, was taken into custody about a month later. He remains in custody, but it’s not clear whether he has been sentenced or what his current status is.
The third and longest-serving prisoner, Kim Dong Chul, is a former Virginia resident who reportedly claims to have been the president of a trade and hotel services company in Rason, a special economic zone on the North Korean border with Russia. He was sentenced in April 2016 to 10 years in prison with hard labor after being convicted of espionage.

How they are tried
Suspects are often arrested when they try to leave North Korea. Warmbier, who was charged with anti-state crimes and the attempted theft of a propaganda banner, and Tony Kim were taken into custody at Pyongyang’s international airport, Kim Hak Song while on a train on his way home to China.
Before being put on trial, detainees are often held in a house-arrest-type situation at their hotel, and some say they were expected to pay the hotel bill for the extra days. They may also be moved to guesthouses or places where they are less likely to be seen by others while the investigation is underway.
Suspects are pushed hard to sign a confession, which many recant after they leave the country, and guilt is generally assumed by the time the case reaches a judge, or a panel of three judges. With little doubt about the outcome, rarely do the proceedings take more than one day — or even a few hours — to complete.
Foreigners charged with serious crimes such as espionage generally have their cases sent directly to the Supreme Court.

Life in prison
Americans aren’t thrown into the same prison system as North Koreans.
Kenneth Bae, a missionary from Washington state who spent two years in prison, said he was kept for the most part in a foreigners-only work camp. It’s possible it was, in fact, meant only for him — he never saw another prisoner there.
In an interview in Pyongyang, the capital, just before his 2016 release, Bae told The Associated Press that he was moved from the work camp to a hospital because of failing health and weight loss. He said he was then sent back to the work camp, which he believed was located not far outside Pyongyang.
He said he did a lot of digging and farm-related labor.
Bae, who was also accused of trying to overthrow the government, said after his release that his cell was small and barren and he was frequently interrogated early on. But he said he was never beaten and was allowed to keep his Bible and pray openly.

How they are freed
The United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations. The Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang acts as a go-between when an American is detained.
North Korea claims that releasing American prisoners before they have completed their sentences is a “humanitarian” decision that must be made by Kim Jong Un himself. So, without any US diplomats or legal advocates on the ground, getting a release often requires a trip by a senior US statesman.
Former President Bill Clinton went to North Korea in 2009 to get two journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who had crossed into the country illegally from China and were given 12-year sentences. Former CIA director James Clapper visited in November 2014 to bring home Bae and tourist Matthew Miller, who was charged with espionage.
Former President Jimmy Carter — who since leaving office has traveled to North Korea three times and even met with Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather — brought home Christian missionary Aijalon Gomes in 2010. Gomes had been sentenced to eight years of hard labor for illegal entry and hostile acts against the government.
Joseph Yun, the top US negotiator with North Korea at the time, was the official who went to get Warmbier.

Indian sailor rescued from yacht stranded off Australian coast

Updated 58 min 38 sec ago

Indian sailor rescued from yacht stranded off Australian coast

  • The sailor, Abhilash Tomy, called for emergency assistance on Saturday after the yacht was badly damaged in a storm
  • He became the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe in 2013

SYDNEY: An Indian sailor injured in a solo round-the-world race has been rescued, the Indian Navy said on Monday, after Australian authorities said a French ship was nearing his storm-damaged yacht off Australia’s west coast.
The sailor, Abhilash Tomy, called for emergency assistance on Saturday after the yacht was badly damaged in a storm about 3,500 kilometers west of Australia, leaving him with severe back injuries.
“Tomy rescued safely,” the Indian Navy said on Twitter, without giving further details.
Earlier, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the rescue, had said it expected a French fisheries patrol vessel to reach Tomy’s yacht as soon as 0700 GMT.
“All indications are the vessel is upright and floating high in the water but at any moment, a wave could push one of the damaged masts into the vessel and compromise its integrity,” Phil Gaden, a search and rescue official, told reporters in Canberra, the Australian capital.
The mast hanging precariously over the yacht stoked fears it could become dislodged and damage the watertight body of the boat, Gaden added.
Despite the nearness of the French ship, Gaden had cautioned that rescuers might not be able to evacuate Tomy because of the damage to his yacht, in which case an Australian naval boat, positioned further away, might have had to undertake the rescue.
Tomy, whose website says he became the first Indian to circumnavigate the globe in 2013, was a contestant in the grueling 48,000-kilometer Golden Globe Race.

The Indian-built yacht, ‘Thuriya’, left the seaside town of Les Sables-d’Olonne in western France on July 1 in the roundtrip race.
Participant crafts, similar to those used 50 years ago in the first such race, which features a solo circumnavigation of the globe, are barred from using modern technology, except for their communications gear.