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N. Korea convicts U.S. reporters

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea's state news agency reported today that the country's top court convicted two U.S. journalists and sentenced them to 12 years in labor prison.

The Korean Central News Agency said the Central Court tried American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee from Thursday to today.

It said the trial confirmed an unspecified "grave crime" against the nation, and of illegally crossing into North Korea.

The report said the court "sentenced each of them to 12 years of reform through labor."

The journalists — working for former Vice President Al Gore's California-based Current TV — were arrested March 17 as they were reporting about the trafficking of women. It's unclear if they strayed into the North or were grabbed by aggressive border guards who crossed into China.

Although the Americans were accused of illegally entering North Korea and unspecified "hostile acts," Pyongyong has yet to publicly announce the exact charges against them.

U.S. officials and others working for the reporters' release have said they've received no information about the defendants and even lacked independent confirmation about whether the trial had started. The North had said the proceedings wouldn't be open to foreign observers, including Swedish officials who act as Washington's proxy in Pyongyang because the two countries do not have diplomatic ties.

Interdiction weighed

The Obama administration wants help from U.S. allies and possibly China to cut off North Korean shipments that may be carrying nuclear technology or other weapons. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC that failing to take aggressive and effective action against North Korea could spark an arms race in northeast Asia. "We will do everything we can to both interdict it and prevent it and shut off their flow of money," Clinton said.

N. Korea convicts U.S. reporters 06/07/09 [Last modified: Monday, June 8, 2009 12:30am]
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