Three Americans being held as prisoners in North Korea—Kenneth Bae, Matthew Todd Miller, and Jeffrey Edward Fowle—were granted surprise interviews with two American news organizations, the Associated Press and CNN, Monday. All three men described their overall humane treatment but also pleaded for Washington's intervention in setting them free. Both CNN and the Associated Press interviewed the men while North Korean officials were present, "suggesting they had been coached," the New York Times reports.
In their interviews, the men requested a special American envoy to North Korea, similar to how Bill Clinton was dispatched to the country in 2009 to negotiate the release of a prisoner. All three also signed documentation admitting their guilt, they said.
"The North Koreans are sending signals to the U.S. that they are ready to deal,'' former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson, told USA Today. "Specifically, they are saying that the three Americans are bargaining chips.'' Richardson has previously negotiated with the country to release detainees.
Bae, 46, a Christian missionary, was sentenced to 15 years in prison after the North Korean government charged that he committed "hostile acts to bring down its government" as part of, CNN reports, "a Christian plot to overthrow the regime." His health, he told the news organizations, is worsening. (Bae has diabetes and kidney stones, CNN reports.)
"I've been going back and forth between hospital and to the labor camp for the last year and a half," Bae told CNN. "My hands are numb and tingling, and it's difficult sleeping at night, and I was working in the field every day."
Washington, Bae's sister Terri Chang, and even Dennis Rodman have all asked for Bae's release. "It is in your power to release my brother. You could do it today. Please do so. He has confessed to the crimes for which he has been charged, and he has served a longer detainment than any other American since the war," Chung said in a statement released Monday.
Miller, 24, who reportedly ripped up his tourist visa upon entering the country in April of this year and asked for asylum, said in his interview, "The American government is known for having a strong policy of protecting its citizens, yet for my case there is still no movement."
While all three have admitted guilt, Bae and Miller will not know what charges are being brought against them until they go to trial.
Fowle, 56, also entered the country in April of this year and was later arrested for leaving a Bible behind in his hotel room, which was "interpreted that act as Christian proselytizing" the Times reports. "You guys should convey my desperate situation," Fowle told CNN. "I've got a wife and three elementary school-aged kids that depend on me for support."
[Image via AP // from left: Matthew Todd Miller, Jeffrey Edward Fowle, Kenneth Bae]