The detainment of Americans and other foreign citizens is interpreted by North Korea watchers as the collection of bargaining chips.
“It shows anyone or anything can be used as political, military or economic leverage,” Jasper Kim, Director of Ewha University’s Center for Conflict Management said.
“I think the strategy by DPRK is to collect possible assets for leverage and basically, playing a game of geopolitical poker, unveiling cards strategically when they have the most value,” he said, using an abbreviation for North Korea.
Kim, who was detained last October, was only revealed to have been held in January. He was sentenced a day after North Korea carried out two provocative (but failed) missile tests.
“The beginning of the year is particularly strategic, typically a lot of things happen at that point: the joint military exercises between US and ROK (South Korea), that occurs and this year in particular, Worker’s
Party congress which hasn’t happened since 1980,” Jasper Kim said.
What is the Worker’s Party congress and why does it matter?
The “DPRK is definitely getting more aggressive, more erratic,” he said.