North Korea to try U.S. journalists

Current TV pair arrested in March for crossing border

SEOUL -- North Korea will put two journalists working for Al Gore's Current TV on trial to face criminal charges, its media said Friday, ratcheting up tensions already raised by a defiant rocket launch.

The pair, Euna Lee and Laura Ling of U.S. media outlet Current TV, were arrested in March along the border between North Korea and China. North Korea has accused them of illegally entering its territory with "hostile" intent.

"A competent organ of the DPRK (North Korea) concluded the investigation into the journalists of the United States. The organ formally decided to refer them to a trial on the basis of the confirmed crimes committed by them," the North's KCNA news agency said in a brief dispatch.

The U.S. State Department had no immediate comment.

The planned trial comes as the reclusive state faces U.N. Security Council censure for launching a long-range rocket on April 5 that regional powers said was a disguised ballistic missile test that violated U.N. resolutions.

Washington has said it was in touch with the North through various channels to secure the release of the two journalists, with details of their predawn arrest still murky several weeks after they were taken into custody.

It took three months to secure the release of an American in 1996 after North Korean guards detained him when he crossed the Yalu River that also separates the North and China.

North Korea is also holding a South Korean worker in an industrial enclave just north of their shared border for allegedly insulting its political system. In a rare meeting with the South this week, the North refused to discuss his fate.
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