US: North Korea using U.S. detainees as political pawns - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

US: North Korea using U.S. detainees as political pawns

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American Matthew Todd Miller in North Korean Court , Photo Date: September 14, 2014 American Matthew Todd Miller in North Korean Court , Photo Date: September 14, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. says North Korea is using detained American citizens as political pawns, after a 24-year-old Californian man was sentenced to six years of hard labor there.

Matthew Miller, of Bakersfield, was convicted Sunday of entering the country illegally to commit espionage. The court said he tore up his visa on arriving in Pyongyang (pyuhng-yahng) April 10 and had wanted to experience prison life so that he could secretly investigate North Korea's human rights situation.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters Monday that the U.S. disagreed with the sentencing. She said Miller and two other Americans should be released and returned home.

Harf said that despite North Korea's official claims to the contrary, it's increasingly clear that nation "seeks to use these U.S. citizens as pawns to pursue its own political agenda."

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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