North Korean officials whisked a CNN team away in a van, and hours later, they were presented with three Americans held captive in the reclusive country.
Like virtually everything in Pyongyang, the interviews were carefully managed by the regime. Each man had exactly five minutes to speak. Some of their statements seemed eerily similar.
“First of all, their motivation always behind these interviews has been to gather U.S. attention and then try to pave a way for high-level dialogue with Washington,” said Ellen Kim of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Their negotiating ploy with the U.S. is to try to get us to agree to nuclear arms control, to sort of accept them as a nuclear weapons state — which we can’t do,” said Michael Green of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Another possibility: That North Korea wants sanctions against the regime lifted.
Victor Cha, the North Korea adviser to former President George W. Bush, said the presentation of all three Americans at once could be telling. “My guess is the fact that all three of them were put on tape for an American audience on Labor Day as a signal from the North Koreans that they’re looking for some sort of package deal to try to get them all out,” Cha said. “Whether they’re trying to connect this to the long-style nuclear negotiations is anybody’s guess.”
It’s apparent the three men are now being used by North Korea as “bargaining chips,” said Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who has traveled to the isolated country. “They’re sending a signal, saying, ‘We’re ready to bargain for the three hostages.'”