Americans detained in North Korea call for U.S. help

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Americans detained in North Korea call for U.S. help
Kenneth Bae, center, who had been held in North Korea since 2012, is hugged after arriving Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after they were freed during a top-secret mission. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Kenneth Bae, left, who had been held in North Korea since 2012, hugs his mother Myunghee Bae after arriving, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after they were freed during a top-secret mission by James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Matthew Miller, left, who had been held in North Korea since April, 2014, is greeted after arriving Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after he were freed during a top-secret mission. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Kenneth Bae, right, who had been held in North Korea since 2012, talks to reporters after he arrived Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after he was freed during a top-secret mission. At left is his sister Terri Chung. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
In this image taken from video, U.S. citizen Matthew Todd Miller speaks at an undisclosed location in North Korea Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. Two Americans, Miller and Jeffrey Edward Fowle, charged with “anti-state” crimes in North Korea say in a video that they expect to be tried soon and possibly receive long prison terms, and appeal for help from the U.S. government. They made the comments in the video shot by a local AP Television News crew. The crew was taken to a location to meet the detained Americans after repeated requests to North Korean authorities to see them. (AP Photo/APTN)
Kenneth Bae, right, who had been held in North Korea since 2012, talks to reporters after he arrived Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after he was freed during a top-secret mission. Looking on from left are Bae's brother-in-law Andrew Chung, his mother, Myunghee Bae, and his sister, Terri Chung. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Kenneth Bae, who had been held in North Korea since 2012, smiles as he talks to reporters Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after he was freed during a top-secret mission. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Kenneth Bae, center, who had been held in North Korea since 2012, talks to reporters after he arrived Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after he was freed during a top-secret mission. Looking on from left are Bae's brother-in-law Andrew Chung, his mother, Myunghee Bae, his sister, Terri Chung, and nieces Ella and Caitlin Chung. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Kenneth Bae, who had been held in North Korea since 2012, greets his mother Myunghee Bae after arriving, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after they were freed during a top-secret mission by James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
The Plane carrying Kenneth Bae, who had been held in North Korea since 2012, and Matthew Miller, who had been held since April, 2014, arrives Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after they were freed during a top-secret mission by James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Matthew Miller, top, who had been held in North Korea since April, 2014, walks off the plane after arriving Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after he were freed during a top-secret mission by James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Matthew Miller, center, who had been held in North Korea since April, 2014, is greeted after arriving Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after he were freed during a top-secret mission. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Kenneth Bae, a American tour guide and missionary serving a 15-year sentence, detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has given foreign media access to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and watched by officials as they spoke, called for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
A conservative anti-North Korean activist holds a placard calling for the release of detained US missionary Kenneth Bae following a protest against the North Korean regime, in Seoul on Febraury 16, 2014. Rare talks between the rival Koreas ended on an even rarer note of agreement February 14, allowing an under-threat reunion for divided families to go ahead and fuelling hopes of further constructive engagement. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
What appears to be a United States Air Force passenger jet, right, is parked on the tarmac of Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014. The State Department says Jeffrey Fowle, one of three Americans being held in North Korea, has been released. State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said Fowle was on his was home Tuesday after negotiators left Pyongyang. She said the U.S. is still trying to free Americans Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
A conservative anti-North Korean activist holds placards calling for the release of detained US missionary Kenneth Bae following a protest against the North Korean regime, in Seoul on Febraury 16, 2014. Rare talks between the rival Koreas ended on an even rarer note of agreement February 14, allowing an under-threat reunion for divided families to go ahead and fuelling hopes of further constructive engagement. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Kenneth Bae, an American tour guide and missionary serving a 15-year sentence, detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has given foreign media access to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and watched by officials as they spoke, called for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
A protester carries a portrait of American missionary Kenneth Bae for an anti-North Korea rally in Seoul, South Korea, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, making the anniversary of the birth of North Korea's late leader Kim Jong Il. The protesters called for the release of Bae who has been jailed in North Korea for more than a year. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
American missionary Kenneth Bae speaks to reporters at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang Monday, Jan. 20, 2014. Bae, 45, who has been jailed in North Korea for more than a year, appealed for the U.S. to do its best to secure his release. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)
FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2014 file photo, American missionary Kenneth Bae, right, leaves after speaking to reporters at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang. Bae, 45, who has been jailed in North Korea for more than a year, appealed for the U.S. to do its best to secure his release. Bae has been returned to a labor camp, prompting worries about his health, his sister Terri Chung said Friday, Feb. 7. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon, File)
American missionary Kenneth Bae, second from right, arrives to speak to reporters at Pyongyang Friendship Hospital in Pyongyang Monday, Jan. 20, 2014. Bae, 45, who has been jailed in North Korea for more than a year, appealed for the U.S. to do its best to secure his release. (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)
Jeffrey Fowle, an American detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has given foreign media access to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and watched by officials as they spoke, called for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Jeffrey Fowle, an American detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has given foreign media access to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and watched by officials as they spoke, called for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Jeffrey Fowle, an American detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has given foreign media access to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and watched by officials as they spoke, called for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
The wife and children of Jeffrey Edward Fowle sit with their attorney, Tim Tepe, center, during a news conference at Tepe's office in Lebanon, Ohio. Fowle has been charged with "anti-state" crimes in North Korea. Fowle's family apologized Tuesday to the communist country and pleaded for its government to show him mercy, saying in a statement they're "desperate for his release and return home." From left are: Fowle's sons, Alex, 13, and Chris, 11; wife Tatyana, 40, and daughter Stephanie, 9. (AP Photo/Amanda Lee Myers)
Tanya Fowle, right, wife of Jeffrey Fowle, listens as attorney Tim Tepe reads a statement from the family, Monday, June 9, 2014, in Lebanon, Ohio. Tepe said that Jeffrey Fowle was on vacation as part of a tour when he was detained in North Korea last week. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
In this image taken from video, U.S. citizen Jeffrey Edward Fowle speaks at an undisclosed location in North Korea Friday, Aug. 1, 2014. Two Americans, Fowle and Matthew Todd Miller, charged with “anti-state” crimes in North Korea say in a video that they expect to be tried soon and possibly receive long prison terms, and appeal for help from the U.S. government. They made the comments in the video shot by a local AP Television News crew. The crew was taken to a location to meet the detained Americans after repeated requests to North Korean authorities to see them. (AP Photo/APTN)
Tanya Fowle, wife of Jeffrey Fowle, leaves the room after attorney Tim Tepe read a statement from the family, Monday, June 9, 2014, in Lebanon, Ohio. Tepe said that Jeffrey Fowle was on vacation as part of a tour when he was detained in North Korea last week. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Tanya Fowle, right, wife of Jeffrey Fowle, listens as attorney Tim Tepe reads a statement from the family, Monday, June 9, 2014, in Lebanon, Ohio. Tepe said that Jeffrey Fowle was on vacation as part of a tour when he was detained in North Korea last week. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Mathew Miller, an American detained in North Korea speaks to the Associated Press, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has given foreign media access to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and watched by officials as they spoke, called for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Mathew Miller, an American detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has given foreign media access to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and watched by officials as they spoke, called for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Mathew Miller, an American detained in North Korea, waits in a room after speaking to the Associated Press, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has given foreign media access to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and watched by officials as they spoke, called for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Mathew Miller, an American detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has given foreign media access to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and watched by officials as they spoke, called for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Mathew Miller, an American detained in North Korea, speaks to the Associated Press, Monday, Sept. 1, 2014 in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has given foreign media access to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and watched by officials as they spoke, called for Washington to send a representative to negotiate for their freedom. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
President Barack Obama, joined by outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, talks about the release of two Americans detained in North Korea, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington after announcing that he will nominate US Attorney Loretta Lynch to replace Holder. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Jeffrey Fowle talks about being detained in North Korea for nearly six weeks, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014 in Lebanon, Ohio. Fowle, sitting in his attorney's office during the interview, was held for nearly six months in North Korea after leaving a Bible at a nightclub. Christian evangelism is considered a crime in North Korea. Fowle was released on Oct. 22, 2014 and returned to Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Skip Peterson)
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PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) - North Korea gave foreign media access on Monday to three detained Americans who said they have been able to contact their families and - watched by officials as they spoke - called for Washington to send a high-ranking representative to negotiate for their freedom.

North Korea's History Of Coercing Detainee Confessions

Jeffrey Fowle and Mathew Miller said they expect to face trial within a month. But they said they do not know what punishment they could face or what the specific charges against them are. Kenneth Bae, who already is serving a 15-year term, said his health has deteriorated at the labor camp where he works eight hours a day.

The three were allowed to speak briefly with The Associated Press at a meeting center in Pyongyang. North Korean officials were present during the interviews, conducted separately and in different rooms, but did not censor the questions that were asked. The three said they did not know they were going to be interviewed until immediately beforehand.

All said they believe the only solution to their situation is for a U.S. representative to come to North Korea to make a direct appeal.

That has often been North Korea's bargaining chip in the past, when senior statesmen including former President Bill Clinton made trips to Pyongyang to secure the release of detainees.

North Korea says Fowle and Miller committed hostile acts which violated their status as tourists. It has announced that authorities are preparing for the trial, but has not announced the date.

In Washington, National Security Council spokesman Patrick Ventrell said, "We have seen the reports of interviews with the three American citizens detained in North Korea."

"Securing the release of U.S. citizens is a top priority and we have followed these cases closely in the White House," his statement added. "We continue to do all we can to secure their earliest possible release."

Ventrell noted that the State Department has issued a travel warning recommending against all travel to North Korea for U.S. citizens.

Fowle arrived in North Korea on April 29. He is suspected of leaving a Bible in a nightclub in the northern port city of Chongjin. Christian proselytizing is considered a crime in North Korea. Fowle, 56, lives in Miamisburg, Ohio, where he works in a city streets department. He has a wife and three children aged 9, 10, and 12.

"Within a month I could be sharing a jail cell with Ken Bae," he said, adding that he hasn't spoken with his family for three weeks. "I'm desperate to get back to them."

North Korea says Miller, 24, entered the country on April 10 with a tourist visa, but tore it up at the airport and shouted that he wanted to seek asylum. Miller refused to comment on whether he was seeking asylum.

Bae, a 46-year-old Korean-American missionary, has been held since November 2012. He was moved from a work camp to a hospital because of failing health and weight loss but last month was sent back to the work camp outside of Pyongyang, where he said he does farm-related labor. He said he has lost 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms) and has severe back pain, along with a sleep disorder. His family has said his health problems include diabetes, an enlarged heart, liver problems and back pain.

"The only hope that I have is to have someone from the U.S. come," he said. "But so far, the latest I've heard is that there has been no response yet. So I believe that officials here are waiting for that."

Bae said he did not realize before the trial that he was violating North Korean law, but refused to go into details.

He said the lead up to his trial lasted about four months, but the trial itself only took about an hour. He said he elected not to have a defense attorney because "at that point there was no sense of me to get a lawyer because the only chance I had was to ask for mercy."

"It was very quick," he said.

Bae's sister Terri Chung told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday, that she is worried about Bae's health and wellbeing and she appealed to North Korean officials to show mercy and release her brother.

"He's eager to come home. His health is not going well. He needs help from the United States government," Chung said, adding she is in regular contact with the State Department.

The U.S. has repeatedly offered to send its envoy for North Korean human rights issues, Robert King, to Pyongyang to seek a pardon for Bae and other U.S. detainees, but without success. Washington has no diplomatic ties with North Korea and no embassy in Pyongyang. Instead, the Swedish Embassy takes responsibility for U.S. consular affairs.

Fowle and Miller said they have met with the Swedish ambassador and have been allowed to make phone calls to their relatives.

North Korea had made Fowle and Miller available to local staff of The Associated Press previously. That they were allowed to meet the AP again and be interviewed by an American reporter indicates North Korea's desire to resolve the issue through some sort of contact with Washington.

All three detainees appeared to speak freely but cautiously on Monday.

Bae seemed healthy but appeared to have significant back pain when he tried to sit down.

Fowle appeared to be in good health. He smiled at times, but also said he was scared and desperate. Miller looked very anxious and spoke quietly. He was thin and pale, and was dressed all in black.

Though a small number of U.S. citizens visit North Korea each year as tourists, the State Department strongly advises against it. After Miller's detention, Washington updated its travel warning to note that over the past 18 months, "North Korea detained several U.S. citizens who were part of organized tours."

North Korea has been strongly pushing tourism lately in an effort to bring in foreign cash. But despite its efforts it remains highly sensitive to any actions it considers political and is particularly wary of anything it deems to be Christian proselytizing.

In March, North Korea deported an Australian missionary detained for spreading Christianity after he apologized and requested forgiveness.

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