SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea said Monday it won't negotiate to release arrested American citizens if a former detainee doesn't stop using what it called slanderous language about the North.
American missionary Kenneth Bae, who was freed by North Korea in 2014 along with another imprisoned American, has written a book about his detention and given media interviews in which he described the treatment he received. Bae had been serving a 15-year sentence with hard labor for alleged anti-state activities.
North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency described Bae as a "filthy object" and a "Judas" who betrayed the North's humanitarian gesture. It also accused the U.S. government of supporting critics of North Korea like Bae to arouse hostility toward the North.
North Korea is extremely sensitive about any criticism of its leadership and political system. It is known to hold two other Americans for alleged espionage, subversion and other activities.
KCNA said North Korea will not hold negotiations for the release of other American detainees if Bae continues speaking ill of the North. "Then American criminals now in custody in (North Korea) will never be able to go back to the U.S.," it said.
Analysts say North Korea often attempts to use foreign detainees to wrest concessions from other countries. In the past it has released some U.S. prisoners after high-profile Americans visited the country on their behalf. Bae was freed during a visit by the U.S. spy chief.
The United States and North Korea are still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to deter potential aggression from North Korea.