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US weighs options to free journalists in North Korea

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There is no clue as to where or how they will serve their sentence. Nor has there been any word as to where they were when seized – though it's widely believed they had ventured onto the ice in the frozen river while filming a story on North Korean human rights abuses.

"Undoubtedly the North Koreans view them as a trump card," says Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Asia Foundation in Washington, but he warns that any dialogue for their release will be "particularly difficult since the US has been moving toward a tougher approach."

US toughens stance on North Korea

The sentencing coincides with an intensified US effort to obtain approval by the United Nations Security Council of tough sanctions against North Korea in retaliation for the North's underground nuclear test on May 25. The US has produced a draft resolution that is considerably stronger than the resolution adopted by the Security Council after the North's first nuclear test on Oct. 9, 2006.

The draft calls for inspection of cargo vessels suspected of carrying materiel and components for nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons as well as the missiles for firing weapons of mass destruction to distant targets. Another provision of the draft calls for cracking down on financial institutions or companies involved in exporting the equipment that North Korea needs for its nuclear and other weapons programs.

The draft would in effect give approval by the UN Security Council of the provisions of the Proliferation Security Initiative, an effort engineered during the George W. Bush administration for cooperation among dozens of nations in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

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