Kenneth Bae has been reunited with his Lynnwood-area family for a little more than a week now, and the details of his rescue continue to fascinate.
James Clapper, the U.S. intelligence director, detailed his secret trip to North Korea on Sunday’s “Face the Nation.” Watch the video below:
Here’s the takeaway: This was not exactly a slam-dunk mission. The Obama administration had good reason to keep it a secret until the two Americans, Bae and Matthew Todd Miller, were safely on board a flight back to the U.S. Let this episode in U.S.-North Korea relations be a lesson and launching point for better understanding between the two countries. The Obama administration deserves credit for sending a top official to hear out North Korea’s concerns while avoiding any quid pro quo actions that might have set off pundits. (Remember the political fracas surrounding last summer’s release of several Guantanamo Bay prisoners in exchange for the release of Taliban prisoner Bowe Bergdahl?)
According to Clapper, the North Koreans released the Americans despite expressing disappointment there was not some “breakthrough” message from President Barack Obama. Will they be as benevolent the next time an American visitor is viewed with suspicion?
In the interview with anchor Bob Schieffer, Clapper spoke almost exclusively about the operation and hardly mentioned Bae or Miller. That’s probably the best move at this time. Let the pair return to normalcy.
Their experiences should be sufficient warning for all western travelers contemplating a visit to North Korea: Be very careful. And if you’re genuinely looking for a place to have fun and relax, maybe just avoid this country altogether.
Ready for some “light” reading on why? Check out the U.S. State Department’s May 20 travel warning:
Travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea is not routine, and U.S. citizen tourists have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention. North Korean authorities have arrested U.S. citizens who entered the DPRK legally on valid DPRK visas as well as U.S. citizens who accidentally crossed into DPRK territory. The Department of State has also received reports of DPRK authorities arbitrarily detaining U.S. citizens without charges and not allowing them to depart the country. In the past 18 months, North Korea detained several U.S. citizens who were part of organized tours. Do not assume that joining a group tour or use of a tour guide will prevent your arrest or detention by North Korean authorities. Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions of U.S. citizens in the DPRK have not succeeded in gaining their release.