Apparently the smart diplomacy from Team Obama isn't making any headway, either.
As global powers debate how to punish North Korea for its nuclear defiance, two American journalists seized nearly three months ago face a trial this week in Pyongyang on charges that could land them in one of the country's notorious labor camps.Oh my, another piece of paper sure to get the Norks in line.
North Korean guards detained Laura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters for former Vice President Al Gore's Current TV media venture, at the northeastern border with China on March 17. Activists who helped organize their trip say they had been reporting on North Korean women and children who fled to China for an uncertain life as refugees.
Pyongyang accused the Americans of engaging in "hostile acts" and crossing into communist North Korea illegally, and announced two weeks ago the women will stand trial June 4 in the nation's top court. Legal experts say conviction for "hostility" or espionage could mean five to 10 years in a labor camp.
Their detention and trial comes at a sensitive time in the diplomatic scramble to rein in an increasingly belligerent Pyongyang, which conducted an underground nuclear test last Monday and punctuated the defiance with an array of short-range missile tests. Diplomats at the U.N. are discussing a new Security Council resolution.
In the meantime, get ready for another fireworks show.
North Korea also appears to be preparing to launch a long-range missile, a South Korean defense official confirmed Sunday. He asked not to be named, citing the sensitivity of the issue. U.S. military officials say there are signs of activity at North Korea's nuclear reactor that could indicate work to restart the facility and resume production of nuclear fuel.
Analysts warned North Korea could use the trial of the Americans to better its hand in the weeks before Obama and South Korea's Lee Myung-bak hold a White House summit June 16.
"Having two journalists detained in the North leaves the U.S. very little maneuvering room since Washington now has to take the women's safety into account," said Yoon Deok-min, a professor at South Korea's state-run Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security.