PYONGYANG, North Korea (Christian Examiner) – Just 18 days after releasing U.S. tourist Jeffrey Fowle, North Korea has made the surprise move to free Americans Kenneth Bae and Matthew Todd Miller who had been left behind.
The two are being escorted home by Director of National Intelligence, John Clapper.
Details released by the Officer of the DNI, were limited, simply noting the two were "accompanied by DNI Clapper, to re-join their families," and that the U.S. was bringing them home.
The national intelligence office welcomed the action by the North Korean government, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and thanked international partners for their help, including Sweden "for their tireless efforts to help secure [Bae's and Miller's] release."
The State Department was equally succinct, except to note Bae had been imprisoned for two years and Miller for seven months. But their statement also revealed that Clapper's involvement was more than an escort mission, saying he "engaged on behalf of the United States in discussions with D.P.R.K. authorities about the release of two citizens."
Bae had been imprisoned for evangelism efforts the D.P.R.K. deemed as a clandestine attack against the government. He is described as a missionary and a tour operator.
Miller on the other hand was arrested for overt behavior. He tore his passport in pieces once in the country and demanded asylum. However, the North Korean government interpreted his actions as trying to infiltrate the country in order to negatively portray it to the world.
Fowle was released Oct. 21 after being detained since May 4 for what he admitted was a clandestine evangelism attempt by leaving behind a Bible in the restroom of a club for foreign sailors hoping it would end up in the hands of a North Korean Christian
He regretted his ill-fated attempt, except to say that his detention would be worth it if it led to changes and freedom for Bae and Miller.
"At the time I did what I had to do to fulfill Jesus' commission to carry the Gospel to the ends of the world," the Baptist continued. "If there is this [diplomatic] thaw, then all of this would be worth it. I'd be happy to sacrifice for that."