We had thought enough had been said about the release of this last round of detainees: Jeffrey Fowle, Kenneth Bae, and Matthew Miller. But we have to take our hats off to Nate Thayer at NKNews for a remarkable scoop on Matthew Miller. My colleague Marc Noland has long expressed his skepticism about what he calls “dystopian tourism” (our tourism posts here). But Thayer’s interview with Miller shows he takes the genre to an entirely new level. We don’t want to spoil the NKNews story, but suffice to say that Miller thought that being arrested would allow him to see the real North Korea.
Were it only true! We can do no better than cite Jeffrey Bader's dry commentary on the Laura Ling-Euna Lee saga:
“We all felt a sense of relief that the journalists, who had been mistreated, were safe and sound. We also felt considerable irritation at American innocents abroad who stumble into such situations as if they were in downtown LA and then expect to be saved, with regard to the damage they do to US national security interests. The possibility of repeat performances by other gullible or misguided Americans, putting us in a similar box, worried us, and rightly so, although subsequent incidents did not involve as “valuable” a prize as Ling and Lee were." That’s for sure.
Back on planet earth, James Clapper offers up a very thoughtful interview on Face the Nation on his North Korea trip. It is almost surreal to think of the American Director of National Intelligence meeting both the North Korean Minister of State Security and the head of the Korean People’s Army Reconnaissance Department. But two things did emerge from the trip: that the North Koreans were disappointed that Clapper was not bringing a “breakthrough” message—an indication of how far apart the two parties remain—and that Clapper saw subtle generational differences among the North Koreans, and more reasonableness in his younger interlocutors. His description is consonant with our theory that this is a political system held hostage to powerful veto players in the military, security apparatus, and military-industrial complex.
Previous Posts on the Detainees
- Detainees and Envoys (April 2013; on the possible North Korean motive of securing visits by high level envoys)
- Detained Americans: Not-So-Innocents Abroad (September 2013; brief outlines of the American detainees)
- Merrill Newman “Confesses” (November 2013)
- Why is Kenneth Bae Treated More Harshly than John Short (March 2014)
- Miller Matthew Todd (April 2014; how Miller’s name was initially reported by KCNA)
- State Department Travel Advisory Update (June 2014)
- Slave to the Blog: Abductions and Detainees Edition (June 2014; Fowle detention)
- Detainee Update and Canadians in Dandong (early August 2014 stories on the three Americans and the sweep against Christians along the Chinese side of the border)
- The Release of Jeffrey Fowle (October 2014)
- Bae and Miller Released and The Hostage Rorschach Test (November 2014)