A US citizen detained in North Korea for nearly six months has now been sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for crimes against the state, according to Pyongyang state media.
Tour operator Kenneth Bae could now be used as a bargaining chip for negotiations to begin with the US, and for a visit by a high-profile US politician which would burnish the reputation of Kim Jong Un, the Associated Press reported.
Bae's trial on charges of "committing hostile acts" against North Korea place in Supreme Court on Tuesday, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.
He was arrested in early November in Rason, a special economic zone in North Korea's far northeastern region bordering China and Russia, state media said. The exact nature of Bae's alleged crimes has not been revealed.
Bae, a South Korean-born American citizen from Washington state, had been living in Dallan, a city on the Chinese-North Korea border, and had often crossed the border to hand out food to orphans.
Six Americans have been held in the hermit state since 2009. Most high profile was the capture of two US journalists in 2009, after North Korea's launch of a long-range rocket and its second underground nuclear test.
The reporters were sentenced to 12 years of hard labour after they were captured sneaking across the border from China, but were pardoned and released after a visit from Bill Clinton, who met Kim Jong Il for negotiations.