Marco Werman: Six years of hard labor in North Korea - that's what Matthew Todd Miller has in his immediate future. The 20-something US citizen has been charged with "hostile acts" against the North Korean state. But there's a lot we don't know about Miller's case. The World's Matthew Bell has been following the story and he's here in the studio with me now. What do we know about Matthew Todd Miller?
Matthew Bell: We know that he went to North Korea in April of this year with an official tour. He apparently, according to the North Korean state news agency, ripped up his visa when he got there, said that he wanted asylum. He was immediately detained. There's been a statement from the tour group saying "This is unfortunate, we had no idea that this was going to happen with this particular customer of ours," but not many details there. Also, it's interesting Marco, that this guy's family isn't saying much publicly either. So we just don't know a lot of details, other than what's come out from North Korean reporting.
Werman: Was he arrested pretty much immediately after landing in North Korea back in April.
Bell: He was, and we didn't know what he would be charged with. There are two other Americans in custody in North Korea. One of them, Kenneth Bae, was charged in late 2012. He was a missionary and apparently he was suspected of Christian missionary activity, which the North Korean government considers to be hostile to the regime there. There's another American who reportedly left a Bible behind when he was on an official tour. He hasn't been put on trial. Matthew Todd Miller, we haven't heard any details like this. This "hostile acts" charge is very vague. You would think that if the North Korean government thought that he was indeed an American spy, that he would've gotten a longer sentence. So, again, there's a lot that's just not clear here.
Werman: Matthew Todd Miller has seemingly made a few statements but one is a written confession and, for the most part, he hasn't really spoken freely on his own, has he? It's always been with North Korean officials in the background. This written confession, it was posted on Twitter, written all in caps, kind of said "I want the Americans to leave the Korean peninsula." Kind of weird. Do you believe this confession?
Bell: That's a great question, and I don't really. It did show up, it was presented again today in this video that showed up. The Associated Press also has a bureau there in North Korea and they presented things that Matthew Miller owned, like his iPad, his iPhone, his passport and then this notebook supposedly that was his and then this confession that said in it that he wanted to rid South Korea of American military presence. Again, he's in North Korean detention, so I think we just have to assume that any statement that he made, if indeed he did make that statement, was done under duress and we have to look at it with a healthy bit of skepticism.
Werman: You know this well, that the thing with North Korea is we obviously don't ever have much to go on because the information is so scarce, so we tend to look at circumstantial evidence. Is there something going on, something in the background that North Korea watchers have been anticipating that this sentence of Matthew Todd Miller might be linked to?
Bell: One thing that's always going on, and this has been going on for decades, is that North Korea is looking for international legitimacy, especially from the United States. North Korea has really not resolved the Korean war with South Korea. It's trying to gain legitimacy in the international community as a legitimate government and the true representative of the Korean people, including ultimately the whole Korean peninsula. Well, the Obama Administration seems quite reluctant to be seen as giving that legitimacy to North Korea. The administration has offered to send their special envoy for human rights to North Korea a couple of times and the North Koreans have refused. That's sort of unsurprising because they don't want to talk about their own human rights record, they want to talk about larger things and they want to show that they have some sort of bilateral relationship with the only superpower in the world.
Werman: The World's Matthew Bell, thank you.
Bell: Thanks Marco.